cover image Two Cities: On Exile, History, and the Imagination

Two Cities: On Exile, History, and the Imagination

Adam Zagajewski, Adam Zagejewski. Farrar Straus Giroux, $24 (264pp) ISBN 978-0-374-28016-1

Polish essayist and poet Zagajewski, residing in Paris since 1982, infuses these haunting autobiographical sketches, lyrical reflections, fables, fantasies and aphoristic brief essays with a sense of traumatic loss and uprootedness. The title piece relates how, in October 1945, when he was four months old, his whole family was expelled from the formerly Polish city of Lvov, which had been incorporated into the U.S.S.R. as a direct result of Yalta Conference deal-making, and deported by cattle car to Gliwice, a Silesian industrial city acquired by Poland from Germany at war's end, where he spent his childhood and adolescence longing for his idealized birthplace. In ``Open Archives,'' through what purports to be a secret-police official's memo, Zagajewski exposes and mocks the brutality and cynicism of communist rule. Along with random thoughts on William Blake, the historical imagination, nihilism and poetry, this collection includes interesting profiles of poet Gottfried Benn, ``a German Mallarme''; obsessive French diarist Paul Leautaud; and Polish Jewish story writer Bruno Schulz, gunned down by a Nazi in 1942. (Mar.)