A Fugitive from Utopia: The Poetry of Zbigniew Herbert

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Harvard University Press, 1987 - Literary Criticism - 163 pages
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The leading Polish poet still residing in his native land, Zbigniew Herbert as not been the subject of a book-length study in English until now. Stanislaw Baranczak, himself a poet, critic, and translator, emigrated from Poland only in 1981, and is therefore eminently qualified to supply a politico-cultural context for Herbert while describing and analyzing the texts and themes of his poems.

Herbert's poetry is based on permanent confrontation--the confrontation of Western tradition with the experience of a "barbarian" from Eastern Europe, of the classical past with the modern era, of cultural myth with a practical, empirical point of view. Baranczak illustrates these oppositions by examining, first, the complex relations between "disinheritance" and "heritage" as they appear in Herbert's work on various structural levels, from symbolic key words to lyrical characters; second, the forms and functions of Herbert's "unmasking metaphor"; third, his uses of irony; fourth, his ethical system, which enables him to be both ironist and moralist. Baranczak pays special attention to irony as the most conspicuous feature of Herbert's poetic method.

A Fugitive from Utopia makes Herbert's poetic ideas fully accessible to the general reader, and will also be of interest to students of Polish literature, of East European culture and society, and of modern poetry. Those who have already encountered Herbert's poetry in one of the several translations into English currently available will welcome this lucid explication of his work.

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Contents

Introduction
1
one Antinomies
8
two Metaphors
63
Copyright

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About the author (1987)

Stanislaw Baranczak was born on November 13, 1946 in Poznan, Poland. He received a Ph.D. in Polish at Adam Mickiewicz University. During the late 1960s, his poetry ridiculed the absurdity of the communist system and its artificial language. He co-founded the Workers' Defense Committee in 1977, following a brutal communist crackdown on protesting workers. For his activity he was fired from his job at the Adam Mickiewicz University and his writings were barred from print in Poland. In 1981, he became a lecturer at Harvard University, where he worked until 1997 when he left due to Parkinson's disease. In 1999, his poem collection, Surgical Precision, won the Nike, Poland's most prestigious literary prize. He translated many authors from Polish to English and from English to Polish, including works by William Shakespeare, John Donne, Emily Dickinson, and Bob Dylan. He also translated from Russian and from Lithuanian. In 1996, he shared the U.S. PEN Translation Prize with Clare Cavanagh for putting into English a collection by Poland's Nobel Prize-winning poet Wislawa Szymborska. He died after a long debilitating disease on December 26, 2014 at the age of 68.

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