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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Acclaimed Polish poet Adam Zagajewski dies at the age 75

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.

By: AP | Warsaw |
Updated: March 23, 2021 10:10:04 am
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. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Adam Zagajewski, one of Poland’s greatest poets who wrote a poem that came to symbolise the world’s sense of shock and loss after the September 11 attacks in the US, has died in Krakow. He was 75. Zagajewski’s death on Sunday, which was UNESCO’s World Poetry Day, was confirmed by publisher Krystyna Krynicka. No cause of death was given.

Zagajewski’s poem Try to Praise the Mutilated World was published in the New Yorker magazine just days after the September 11 attacks and became representative for the outpouring of grief around the world. 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.

Poland’s Nobel-winning author Olga Tokarczuk said that students “adored him because he was especially gifted for poetry, he knew how to talk about it”. She said he would read verse with “special, ceremonial intonation that is due only to poetry”.
Polish President Andrzej Duda tweeted that Zagajewski’s death was “sad news and a big loss to Poland’s literature”.

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 poetry praising life under the communist system. His works were banned in 1975 by Poland’s communist authorities of the time 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. He won many literary awards, including the 2004 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, considered a forerunner to the Nobel Prize in Literature, and the 2017 Princess of Asturias Award, the Spanish-speaking world’s top humanities award. He was awarded a number of Polish state distinctions and France’s Legion of Honour in 2016.

Zagajewski was born in June 1945 in Lwow, now Lviv in Ukraine. That same year his family had to move west, to central Poland, as borders were shifted following World War II and the city became part of the Soviet Union.

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