Adam Zagajewski (1945) is a poet, essayist, novelist and translator. Very soon after his birth in Lwów, now known as Lviv and located in present Ukraine, he moved with his parents to Gliwice in Upper Silesia, where he spent his youth. In 1960, he moved to Kraków in order to study Polish literature and art history. He is one of the most important representatives of ‘The 1968 Generation’, also known as ‘The New Wave’ (Nowa Fala), to which poets such as Ewa Lipska and translator Stanisław Barańczak belonged.
He made his debut in 1968 in the literary periodical Życie literackie
(Literary Life). His first collections of poems are Komunikat
(Communiqué, 1972) and Sklepy mięsny
(Slaughterhouses, 1975.) In 1974, together with a poet of like persuasion Julian Kornhauser, (1946) he published the manifesto ‘The Unimagined World’, in which a solid description of the world was postulated which, according to the authors, was not to be found in the literature of the period. Like so many from this movement, he joined the democratic opposition in the mid-1970s. In 1982, he emigrated to Pairs, where he began to cooperate with the locally published emigrant periodicals such as the no longer existent Kultura and with Zeszyty Literackie
(Literary Writings), situated by that time in Warsaw, of which he has been chief editor for many years. In addition, he has been guest lecturer since 1988 within the framework of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston, USA. The themes of his initially socio-politically committed poetry have, over the years, assumed an increasingly philosophical and existential nature. Adam Zagajewski is a fierce opponent of the ‘watering-down of high style’ – not only in literature. He is regarded as one of the most important Polish poets and essays at present. His latest collection of poems appeared in 2005 and was called Anteny
(Antennas). His most recent collection of essays is Obrona żarliwości
(A Defence of Passion, 2002). For a number of years now, Adam Zagajewski has once more been living in Kraków.
Dutch translations of works by Adam Zagajewski include: Mystiek voor beginners
, translation Gerard Rasch (Meulenhoff, 2003), a number of poems in the anthology Bittere oogst
, translation Gerard Rasch (De Bezige Bij, 2000) and Heb medelijden, tijd
, translation Karol Lesman (Plantage, 2003). Apart from two previous appearances at Poetry International, Adam Zagajewski has also given two readings at the Nexus Instituut, where, in the Nexus Bibliotheek series the translated collection Wat zingt, is wat zwijgt
has also appeared (second edition, November 2004).
© Karol Lesman
[Adam Zagajewski took part in the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam 2008. This text was written on that occasion.]
Adam Zagajewski’s page on Lyrikline