Adam Zagajewski: ‘In Praise of the Mutilated World’

It was sad to hear of the recent death of Adam Zagajewski, who had been considered by many to be Poland’s greatest living poet. You can read his obituary in the New York times here.

Below, by way of tribute, Salman Rushdie reads ‘In Praise of the Mutilated World’, one of Zagakewski’s most well known poems because of its association of the tragics events in New York on 11th September 2001.

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And if you’d like to hear what the original sounds like, here it is read in Polish:

TRY TO PRAISE THE MULTILATED WORLD
translated by Clare Cavanagh

Spróbuj opiewać okaleczony świat.
Try to praise the mutilated world.

Pamiętaj o długich dniach czerwca
Remember June’s long days,

i o poziomkach, kroplach wina rosé.
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.

O pokrzywach, które metodycznie zarastały
The nettles that methodically overgrow

opuszczone domostwa wygnanych.
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.

Musisz opiewać okaleczony świat
You must praise the mutilated world.

Patrzyłeś na eleganckie jachty i okręty;
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;

jeden z nich miał przed sobą długą podróż,
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,

na inny czekała tylko słona nicość.
while salty oblivion awaited others.

Widziałeś uchodźców, którzy szli donikąd,
You’ve seen the refugees going nowhere,

słyszałeś oprawców, którzy radośnie śpiewali.
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.

Powinieneś opiewać okaleczony świat.
You should praise the mutilated world.

Pamiętaj o chwilach, kiedy byliście razem
Remember the moments when you were together

w białym pokoju i firanka poruszyła się.
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.

Wróć myślą do koncertu, kiedy wybuchła muzyka.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.

Jesienią zbierałeś żołędzie w parku
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn

a liście wirowały nad bliznami ziemi.
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.

Opiewaj okaleczony świat
Praise the mutilated world

i szare piórko, zgubione przez drozda,
and the gray feather a thrush lost,

i delikatne światło, które błądzi i znika
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes

i powraca.
and returns.

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You can read other poems by Zagajewski here including his early masterpiece ‘To Go To Lvov’.

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1 thought on “Adam Zagajewski: ‘In Praise of the Mutilated World’

  1. Thank you for this. I am sorry to discover a poet because he has died, but better that than never know this subtle and affecting work. The reading by Salman Rushdie is beautifully judged. Thank you for it all.

    Like

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