Adam Zagajewski obituary

Poet and leading voice of Poland’s Generation of ’68, who wrote ‘to understand the world’

The poet Adam Zagajewski, who has died aged 75, was one of the leading voices of Poland’s Nowa Fala (new wave), also known as the Generation of ’68 – a loose group of poets who opposed the corruption of language imposed by communism and promoted the simplicity and honesty of their native tongue. Like many of his generation, informed by the horrors of the second world war, Zagajewski became focused on poetry’s ethical obligations in understanding and presenting the world to the reader “after Auschwitz”.

In 1974, together with the poet and critic Julian Kornhauser, Zagajewski published a manifesto in the form of a collection of essays on Polish literature, The Unrepresented World, that demanded “non-naive realism” (Kornhauser’s term) in fiction: realism understood not as a literary movement but rather as an obligation to describe social reality in communist Poland, which put them in conflict with the authorities. Along with this mission to provide “the basic source of information about the world and its people”, Zagajewski also pondered on the concept of liberty, as in his poem Freedom, translated by Antony Graham:

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