Herbert, Zbigniew

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Herbert, Zbigniew

Zbigniew Herbert (zbēg´nyĕf khĕr´bĕrt) 1924–98, Polish poet, essayist, and playwright, b. Lwów, Poland (now Lviv, Ukraine). Herbert, who had degrees in economics, philosophy, and law, was one of Poland's finest modern poets. A member of the anti-Nazi resistence, he later also opposed Poland's Communist rulers. Herbert is known for pared-down, precise, and barely punctuated verse informed by a dispassionate, objective, and ironic tone. He often refers to ancient Greece and Rome, frequently retelling and revising their myths, and he takes dispossession and the tyranny of history as his frequent subjects, suggesting the need to remain both faithful to enduring principles and joyfully humane in a savage age. His first collection, Struna światła [a string of light], was published in 1956 and was followed by several volumes including Pan Cogito (1974, tr. Mr. Cogito, 1993), in which Herbert introduced his antiheroic modern Everyman. Other English translations of his verse include Selected Poems (1968), Selected Poems (1977), Report from the Besieged City, (Raport z oblężonego miata, 1983; tr. 1985), Elegy for the Departure (Elegia na odejście, 1993; tr. 1999), and Epilogue of the Storm (Epilog burzy, 1998; tr. 2001). English versions of his essays are found in such volumes as Barbarian in the Garden (1962, tr. 1986) and King of the Ants (1999); Collected Prose: 1948–1998 was published in 2010.

See study by S. Baranczak (1987).

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