Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Zbigniew Herbert was primarily a poet, but he was also a prose writer of considerable originality and distinction. A collection of essays titled Barbarzyńca w ogrodzie (Barbarian in the Garden, 1985) appeared in Poland in 1962; these essays are a unique combination of personal, richly poetic, firsthand description with analytical, scholarly research. Herbert also wrote several plays, including radio plays as well as works for the stage; a collection of his dramatic works was published in 1970 under the title Dramaty (plays).

In addition, Herbert published works in a genre of his own invention, his “apocryphas.” These prose pieces are a synthesis of the short story and the essay; they contest traditional accounts or interpretations of major historical events and present the very different (“apocryphal”) interpretations of the author. Although most of Herbert’s apocryphas take their subjects from Western European history, some go farther afield—to Chinese history, for example. A collection of these works, “Narzeczona Attyli” (Attila’s fiancé), has been awaiting publication in Poland for some time.