Adam Zagajewski, Poet of the Past’s Presence, Dies at 75

Adam Zagajewski, Poet of the Past’s Presence, Dies at 75

Adam Zagajewski, Poet of the Past’s Presence, Dies at 75

Adam Zagajewski, Poet of the Past’s Presence, Dies at 75

His poetry collections in English include “Mysticism for Beginners” (1997), “Without End: New and Selected Poems” (2002), “Eternal Enemies: Poems” (2008) and “Asymmetry: Poems” (2018), all translated by Ms. Cavanagh.

He was the author of the prose collections “Solitude and Solidarity” (1990) and “Two Cities” (1995), both translated by Lillian Vallee; and a memoir, “Another Beauty” (2000), also translated by Ms. Cavanagh.

Writing in The New York Times Book Review, the literary translator and playwright Philip Boehm described “Without End” as “an astonishing book,” adding that the author’s poems “pull us from whatever routine threatens to dull our senses, from whatever might lull us into mere existence.”

In The New Republic, the poet Robert Pinsky wrote in 1993 that Mr. Zagajewski’s poems, in a collection titled “Canvas,” were “about the presence of the past in ordinary life: history not as chronicle of the dead, or an anima to be illuminated by some doctrine, but as an immense, sometimes subtle force inhering in what people see and feel every day — and in the ways we see and feel.”

Among Mr. Zagajewski’s awards were the Prix de la Liberté in 1987, the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 2004 and the Princess of Asturias Award, the Spanish-speaking world’s top humanities award, in 2017.

Information about his survivors was not immediately available.

In a 2017 essay titled “Slight Exaggeration,” Mr. Zagajewski recounted that one of his father’s callings was to comfort his mother. On Sept. 1, 1939, he wrote, when the Germans invaded Poland and the bombs began to burst everywhere, Tadeusz Zagajewski went so far as to assure his wife that the attacks were “‘just air force exercises. … Nothing to upset us. … There won’t be a war’ — these were my father’s historic words, by which he granted his wife, my mother, an extra 15 minutes of peace.”

“He prolonged the interwar era by a quarter of an hour especially for her.”

In retrospect, his father called his words a slight exaggeration, “a good definition of poetry,” Adam Zagajewski wrote, “until we make ourselves at home in it.”

“Then it becomes the truth,” he added. “But when we leave it again — since permanent residence is impossible — it becomes once more a slight exaggeration.”


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