``La Pologne? La Pologne? Isn't it terribly cold there?'' she asked, and then sighed with relief. So many countries have been turning up lately that the safest thing to talk about is climate.
``Madame,'' I want to reply, ``my people's poets do all their writing in mittens. I don't mean to imply that they never remove them; they do, indeed, if the moon is warm enough. In stanzas composed of raucous whooping, for only such can drown the windstorms' constant roar, they glorify the simple lives of our walrus herders. Our Classicists engrave their odes with inky icicles on trampled snowdrifts. The rest, our Decadents, bewail their fate with snowflakes instead of tears. He who wishes to drown himself must have an ax at hand to cut the ice. Oh, madame, dearest madame.
''That's what I mean to say. But I've forgotten the word for walrus in French. And I'm not sure of icicle and ax.
``La Pologne? La Pologne? Isn't it terribly cold there?'' ``Pas du tout'' I answer icily.
(translation: Stanislaw Baranczak és Clare Cavanagh)