Neustadt International Prize

2004 - Adam Zagajewski

Born: 21 June 1945, Lvov, Ukraine

Author's Quote : "But I was only a chaotic walker, nobody could stop me; even a totalitarian state was not able to control my daydreams, my poetic fascinations, the pattern of my walking."

Field: Poet, Essayist, Novelist

Prize share: 1/1

Books Written By Adam Zagajewski

About Adam Zagajewski

Adam Zagajewski (born 21 June 1945 in Lwów) is a Polish poet, novelist, translator and essayist. He was awarded the 2004 Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

Adam Zagajewski was born in Lwów (since January 1, 1946 Lvov, Ukrainian SSR). The Zagajeski family was expelled from Lwów by the Ukrainians to central Poland the same year. In 1982 he emigrated to Paris, but in 2002 he returned to Poland, and resides in Kraków. His poem "Try To Praise The Mutilated World", printed in The New Yorker, became famous after the 11 September attacks. He is currently a faculty member at the University of Chicago and a member of its Committee on Social Thought. He teaches two classes, one of which is on fellow Polish poet Czesław Miłosz.

Zagajewski first became well known as one of the leading poets of the Generation of '68' or the Polish New Wave (Nowa fala); he is one of Poland's most famous contemporary poets. Among his collections are Anteny(Cracow: a5, 2005); Powrót (2003); Pragnienie (Cracow: a5, 1999); Ziemia ognista (1994); Jechac do Lwowa (1985); Sklepy miesne (1975); and Komunikat (1972). His books of poetry in English include Eternal Enemies: Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2008. Translated by Clare Cavanaugh); Without End: New and Selected Poems (2002, translated by Clare Cavanaugh); Mysticism for Beginners (1997, translated by Clare Cavanaugh); Tremor (1985, translated by Renata Gorczyñski); and Canvas (1991, translated by Renata Gorczyñski, B. Ivry, and C. K. Williams).

He is also the author of a memoir, Another Beauty (2000, translated by Clare Cavanagh) and the prose collections, Two Cities (1995, translated by Lillian Vallee) and Solitude and Solidarity (1990, translated by Lillian Vallee). His poems and essays have been translated into many languages. Among his honors and awards are a fellowship from the Berliner Kunstlerprogramm, the Kurt Tucholsky Prize, a Prix de la Liberté, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Since 1988, he has served as Visiting Associate Professor of English in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston. In 2010, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. He is currently co-editor of Zeszyty literackie (Literary Review), which is published in Paris. Adam Zagajewski lives in Paris and Houston.


Without End: New and Selected Poems - Adam Zagajewski


This is a marvelous collection of poetry. It earns my highest recommendation. Zagajewski is one of the more interesting poets on the scene today. This collection opens with "To See": "I had to see, and not to just know, to see clearly the sight and fires of a single brethren in the shallow sand; the earth still turns above you...."

Other lovely poems are: "Dead Sparrow," "Speak Softly," "December," "Death of a Pianist," "Twenty Five Years," "The World's Prose," "Treatise on Emptiness," Try to Praise a Mutilated World," and "The Creation of the World."

Z's verse is economic and spare. His word craft creates deep images that are world-conscious, and they offer us a phenomenal awareness of ourselves. A good poet begins in metaphysical wonderment, and that is fulfilled here.

It seems that Z. looks past our blinking lids and bloodshot eyes to witness the barren cavity in which the human soul resides. And when that examination is found wanting in the discovery of spiritual emptiness, we look to the world and see ragged refugees on detoured paths to nowhere.

Without End: New and Selected Poems - Adam Zagajewski

By Harper Curtis

A beautiful, touching collection by a fine poet. Zagajewski is witty, humorous, intelligent. He is able to write personal poems without sentimentality. An example to learn from.