Born on June 21, 1945 in Lviv. Poet, novelist, essayist, laureate of many prestigious literary awards. Translations of his works have been published all over the world.
Zagajewski is the son of professor Tadeusz Zagajewski - a pioneer of Polish electronics (1912-2010). Shortly after his birth, the Zagajewski family was repatriated to Poland within the borders set at the Yalta conference. Zagajewski spent his childhood years in Gliwice, in the Silesia region, and university years in Kraków. He studied psychology and philosophy at the Jagiellonian University, later teaching philosophy courses as a university assistant. He also worked as an editor for the Student and Odra periodicals. Zagajewski soon made a name for himself as a poet of the Generation '68, referred to as the Kraków New Wave.
Zagajewski came from the Kraków-based Teraz (Now) group. Soon after signing the 'letter of 59' in 1975, his works were banned. In the 70s he was associated with the independent literary movement, and in 1982 he moved to Paris. In 2002, Zagajewski returned to Poland and currently lives in Kraków with his wife Maja Wodecka, an actress and translator.
Today he is a member of the editorial staff of Zeszyty Literackie literary journal. He is a laureate of the 1996 Vilenica Prize and the 2002 Adenauer Prize, and also a member of the Polish Writers Association. Zagajewski taught visiting poetry workshops at the School of Literature and Arts at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków and a creative writing course at University of Houston in the USA.
His first poetry books, Komunikat / Communiqué and Sklepy mięsne / Meat Shops fulfilled his generation's manifesto for speaking the truth about the public reality and exposing the falsity of the official language. Apart from poems which were a reaction to the imposition of the martial law, his collection List. Oda do wielości / Letter. Ode to Multiplicity included those themes and their poetic representations which were to become distinct features of Zagajewski's works. Since then, his poetry has been contemplative and filled with questions, with recurring themes that span the constant questioning of biographical and existential roles of the protagonist of poetry to praising life seen in 'its changeability, its waving, its ambiguity' (as he wrote in Solidarność i samotność / Solidarity and Solitude), along with the immersion into the world of European culture and contemplation of its heritage and a return to his own roots (Poemat), pondering over possible variants of his own fate, trying on costumes and masks. An image of a pensive wanderer holding a book in his hand and travelling around the world as if 'checked out from a great library' keeps recurring in Zagajewski's poems (Płótno / The Canvas).
Similar themes are found in Zagajewski's prose. The novel Ciepło, zimno / Warm and cold is a coming of age story of a young intellectual who is exposed to the temptations of adult life. Tormented by doubts and inability to choose the world of unambiguous principles, he starts to serve the police state. While the novels Cienka kreska / Thin Line and Słuch absolutny / Absolute Pitch are devoted to spiritual dilemmas of a contemporary artist. Antinomy and multiplicity of reality make a permanent motif also in Zagajewski's novels. 'I understood that the world is double, divided, both wonderful and trivial, heavy and light, heroic and cowardly', as a communist officer admits in a story Zdrada / Treason within the Dwa miasta / Two Cities collection of Zagajewski's essays. These stories depict the world from a similar perspective. Solidarity and Solitude (1986) shows the maladies and illusions of a culture too deeply engaged into politics and confronts the dilemmas that today's writers or artists face. The prose pieces and mini-essays included in Two Cities and the novel W cudzym pięknie / In the Beauty of Others put forward philosophical deliberations, reflections on readings and travelling experiences across Europe. Zagajewski writes about Kraków and Paris, about towns of his childhood years, mythical places of his Central European education, about Nietzsche, Jung, Bruno Schulz, Cioran, Gottfried Benn; as well as about threats posed on spiritual life by our civilisation, paradoxes that arise from the situation where there are more and more mass media and less and less messages to convey, and about many more issues and key persons of our contemporary times.
I will never write only about birds singing, although I greatly admire birdsong, however, not to the extent that I could withdraw from the historical world, for the historical world is also fascinating. What really interests me is the interweaving of the historical and the cosmic world, the motionless one, or rather moving in a completely different motion. I will never know how these two coexist. They fight with each other and complement each other - and this is what's worth reflection.
In 2010 he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
About Adam Zagajewski:
It rarely happens that the muse of poetry speaks so clearly and with such a force as in Zagajewski's case. Rarely one can witness such an intensive dialogue between Euterpe and Klio.
Zagajewski is not an aesthete. Higher criteria apply to poetry: woe to a writer who puts beauty before the truth.
Updated by: Janusz R. Kowalczyk, October 2010, translated by: Katarzyna Różańska, October 2010.
Komunikat / Communiqué, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1972.
Sklepy mięsne / Meat Shops, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1975.
Wiersze / Poems, Warszawa,1976.
List / Letter (samizdat, as "print for internal use only"), Poznań: Witryna Poetycka OKS "Od Nowa", 1978; Kraków: Krakowska Oficyna Studentów KOS, 1979 (extended edition, introduction by Tadeusz Nyczek).
List. Oda do wielości, Nowe wiersze / Letter. Ode to Multiplicity, New Poems (samizdat), Kraków: Półka Poetów, 1982; Paris: Instytut Literacki, 1983.
Petit (samizdat), Słowo, 1983.
Jechać do Lwowa i inne wiersze / Travelling to Lviv and Other Poems (graphics by Józef Czapski), London: Aneks, 1985; (samizdat) Margines (Oficyna Literacka), 1986; Droga, 1986; Fundacja Zeszytów Literackich, 2009, ISBN 978-83-60046-07-4.
Nowe wiersze / New Poems (samizdat), Świt,1985.
Płótno / The Canvas, Paris: Zeszyty Literackie, 1990; Warsaw: Fundacja Zeszytów Literackich, 2002, ISBN 83-91-1068-8-8.
Cienka kreska / Thin Line, Kraków: Znak, 1983, ISBN 83-70-0608-8-9.
Świat nie przedstawiony / The Unpresented World (literary sketches, with Julian Kornhauser), Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1974.
Drugi oddech / Second Wind (literary sketches), Kraków: Znak, 1978.
Solidarność i samotność / Solidarity and Solitude, Paris: Zeszyty Literackie, 1986; (samizdat) Margines (Oficyna Literacka), 1986; Fundacja Zeszytów Literackich, 2002.
Dwa miasta / Two Cities, Paris-Kraków: Biblioteka Zeszytów Literackich-Oficyna Literacka, 1991, ISBN 83-85-1583-3-2; Lublin: Wydawnictwo UMCS, 2001, ISBN 83-22-7166-4-8; Warsaw: Fundacja Zeszytów Literackich, 2007, ISBN 83-60-0466-5-4.
W cudzym pięknie / In the Beauty of Others, Poznań: a5, 1998, 2000, 2001, ISBN 83-85568-37-9.
For the 70th birthday of Adam Zagajewski, a5 Press prepared a bilingual Polish-English anthology of essays devoted to the works of the poet. Both light and shadow...The Work of Adam Zagajewski contains over twenty texts from authors of different ages and nationalities who are fascinated by the poems and the essays of the jubilarian.Read more »
A new volume containing thirteen essays by Adam Zagajewski, written at the end of the previous and the beginning of the present century. It contains above all the sum of the reflections of this outstanding poet, essayist, novelist, and translator on the essence of poetry and art...Read more »
In order to guide English-speakers towards the Polish authors best suited for their specific tastes, Culture.pl has put together an exclusive guide offering historical context and tailor-made recommendations. Read more »
Adam Zagajewski's Kraków, a documentary about the city's literary side, is the first of 13 films promoting Europe's literary capitals including Barcelona, Berlin, Dublin, Florence, London and Stockholm. Read more »