Adam Zagajewski Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Although poetry constitutes the most important part of Adam Zagajewski’s oeuvre, he also has written three novels: Ciepło zimno (1975; it’s cold, it’s warm), Das absolute Gehör (1982; absolute pitch), and Cienka kreska (1983; thin line). Zagajewski’s fiction, patterned on the traditional Bildungsroman, is an ironic reworking of this nineteenth century genre.

Zagajewski also published a number of important essays and essay collections. His Świat nie przedstawiony (1974; the world not represented), coauthored by Julian Kornhauser, played a seminal role in shaping the literary consciousness of the decade. Drugi Oddech (1978; second wind) and Solidarność i samotność (1986; Solidarity, Solitude: Essays, 1990), continue probing the question of literature’s ethical and social responsibility. Dwa miasta (1991; Two Cities: On Exile, History, and the Imagination, 1995) and W cudzym pięknie (1998; Another Beauty, 2000) explore the richness and variety of Europe, as found in the author’s memories, readings, and travels. Zagajewski is also the author of Polen: Staat im Schatten der Sowjetunion (1981; Poland: a state in the shackles of the Soviet Union), an analysis of the Polish state under Soviet rule.


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

The literary debut of Adam Zagajewski took place in a country oppressed by Soviet domination. This historical circumstance led the poet and other writers of his generation (known as the Generation 68, or the New Wave) to take upon themselves the duty of opposing both political oppression and the conformist attitudes found among Polish intellectuals, thus turning around the Communist slogan, “Writers are the conscience of the nation.” Although in his later writings Zagajewski abandoned the earlier political agenda, his poetry never ceased to defend the human right to individual perception and sensitivity. Zagajewski’s poems have been translated into English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, and Swedish.

Zagajewski received a number of prestigious fellowships and awards, including the Jurzykowski Foundation Award, a fellowship from the Berliner Kunstlerprogram, the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Prix de la Liberté, the International Vilenica Award, the Kurt Tucholsky Prize, and the Tranströmer Prize.


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Bieńkowski, Zbigniew. “The New Wave: A Non-Objective View.” In The Mature Laurel: Essays on Modern Polish Poetry, edited by Adam Czerniawski. Chester Springs, Pa.: Seren Books, Dufour, 1991. A sensitive and balanced overview of New Wave poetry in the context of several earlier postwar poetic generations. Includes translations of poems by Zagajewski, Ewa Lipska, Julian Kornhauser, Stanisław Barańczak, and others.

Nyczek, Tadeusz. “Kot w mokrym ogrodzie.” In Emigranci. London: Anex, 1988. A compelling account of Zagajewski’s poetic transformation in the early 1980’s, rendered in a friendly, conversational tone by a friend of the poet. In Polish.

Karpowicz, Tymoteusz. “Naked Poetry: A Discourse About the Newest Polish Poetry.” Polish Review 1/2 (1976): 59-70. An insightful report on the state of Polish poetry, from the time Zagajewski was publishing his first collections. Written by a well-known Polish poet.

Shallcross, Bożena. “The Divining Moment: Adam Zagajewski’s Aesthetic Epiphany.” Slavic and East European Journal 44, no. 2 (2000): 234-252. An analysis of epiphany and its importance to the artistic sensitivity of Zagajewski; looks at Zagajewski’s responses to works of art, such as Jan Vermeer’s painting Girl Interrupted in Her Music and Carlos Saura’s film Flamenco.

Witkowski, Tadeusz. “The Poets of the New Wave in Exile.” Slavic and East European Journal 33, no. 2 (1989): 204-216. An account of the émigré works by poets once belonging to the New Wave; addresses the problem of poetry’s ethical responsibility and presents the poetic and ideological debate between Zagajewski and another poet of his generation, Ryszard Krynicki.