Shared from the 3/23/2021 Philadelphia Inquirer - Philly Edition eEdition

Acclaimed poet Adam Zagajewski, 75

WARSAW, Poland — Adam Zagajewski, 75, the celebrated Polish poet whose melancholy reflections on the erosion of the world came to express an unfathomable moment of shock and loss after the 9/11 attacks in the United States, has died in Krakow.

Mr. Zagajewski’s death on Sunday, which was UNESCO’s World Poetry Day, was confirmed by publisher Krystyna Krynicka of the a5 publishing house. No cause of death was given.

Mr. Zagajewski’s “Try to Praise the Mutilated World,” was written well before the attacks but took on new and historic meaning because of them. Translated into English by Clare Cavanaugh and published in the New Yorker just days after the 2001 tragedy, the poem was a tender look back at happier moments and an acknowledgment of the world’s ongoing cruelties:

You watched the stylish yachts and ships; one of them had a long trip ahead of it, while salty oblivion awaited others.

You’ve seen the refugees going nowhere, you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.

You should praise the mutilated world.

Mr. Zagajewski used to say that what interested him the most was the intertwining of the “historic world with the cosmic world that is static, or rather moves in a totally different rhythm.”

“These worlds fight but also complete each other — and that is really worthy of deep reflection,” he said in an interview.

He taught poetry workshops at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University, as well as creative writing at the University of Houston. He was also a faculty member at the University of Chicago.

Media in Sweden said he was repeatedly mentioned among candidates for the Nobel Prize in literature.

Mr. Zagajewski was a leading figure in Poland’s New Wave, or Generation ’68, literary movement of the late 1960s that called for a simple language to relate directly to reality. It was a reaction to pompous poetry praising life under the communist system.

Mr. Zagajewski and fellowpoet Julian Kornhauser authored a book that became the movement’s manifesto.

Mr. Zagajewski’s works were banned in 1975 by Poland’s communist authorities after he signed a protest by 59 intellectuals against ideological changes to the Polish Constitution that pledged unbreakable alliance with the Soviet Union and the leading role of the Communist Party. He emigrated to Paris in 1982 but returned to Poland in 2002 and lived in Krakow.

See this article in the e-Edition Here
Edit Privacy