Poet, essayist, translator, academic teacher, often listed among the most eminent contemporary European authors. He was born in 1945 in Lviv, and grew up in Gliwice. He studied psychology and philosophy at Jagiellonian University. Connected with the Krakow poetic group “Teraz”. In 1974, together with Julian Kornhauser, he published a collection of essays Świat nieprzedstawiony [The World Undepicted], which was interpreted as a manifesto of the emerging New Wave movement. A year later, after signing the “Letter of 59”, Zagajewski was put under a printing ban. In the years 1979-1981, he held a scholarship in Berlin. In 1982, he moved to France. Shortly after, he joined the editorial staff of Zeszyty Literackie. He lectured at numerous universities, including the University of Houston and the University of Chicago. He also conducted poetry workshops at the Jagiellonian University.
Zagajewski is the author of poems, novels, and collections of essays. He debuted in 1972 with a volume of verse entitled Komunikat [Announcement]. Books announced after 1976, such as List [Letter; 1978], Jechać do Lwowa i inne wiersze [To Go to Lviv and Other Poems; 1985], and Solidarność i samotność (Solidarity, Solitude; 1986), appeared in samizdat. In the recent years, he published a collection of poetry entitled Niewidzialna ręka (Unseen Hand; 2009) and a collection of essays, Lekka przesada [A Bit of an Exaggeration; 2011]. He is one of the most translated Polish authors; his works appeared in English, German, French, Swedish, and Hebrew.
Zagajewski is the winner of many prestigious awards and distinctions, including the Kościelski Award (1975), the Kurt Tucholsky Prize (1985), the Prix de la Liberté (1987), the Vilenica International Literary Award (1996), and the German Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Award for lifetime achievement (2002). In 1992, he received the Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2004, he received the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, called the “small Nobel”. He was also honoured with state decorations – the Bronze Cross of Merit (1998), the Officer’s Cross (2007) and the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta (2012). In 2012, he received a degree honoris causa of Jagiellonian University.