Zbigniew Herbert grew up in the Polish city of Lvov; in 1939, when he was fifteen years old, this part of Poland was invaded by the Soviet Union. Herbert began to write poetry during World War II, and the war permanently shaped his outlook. The face of postwar Poland was permanently changed, socially, physically, and politically: Herbert’s native city became part of the Soviet Union.
In 1944, Herbert studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow—he was always interested in painting, sculpture, and architecture—and a year later he entered the Academy of Commerce, also in Krakow. In 1947, he received a master’s degree in economics and moved to Toruń, where he studied law at the Nicolas Copernicus University. He received the degree of master of laws in 1950. Herbert stayed on in Toruń to study philosophy and was influenced by the philosopher Henryk Eizenberg. In 1950 he lived briefly in Gdańsk and worked there for the Merchant’s Review before moving to Warsaw, where for the next six years he held a variety of jobs: in the management office of the peat industry, in the department for retired pensioners of the Teachers’ Cooperative, in a bank, in a store, and in the legal department of the Composers’ Association.
Herbert’s poems began to appear in periodicals in 1950, but no collection was published in book form; during the increasing social and cultural repression of the Stalinist years, several of the magazines...
(The entire section is 464 words.)