Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

by Adam Zagajewski
Dear Editor,

In the December 2007 issue of your magazine you published a 
letter from  James O’Keefe who severely criticized my “Notebook” [“Dangerous Considerations,” October 2007]: “Adam Zagajewski misrepresents the career of French poet and statesman Saint-John Perse....    To lump Perse with the advocates of appeasement is a travesty.” He also accused me of a “disregard of facts and calumny of a great poet and statesman.”

I may have been a bit too tough on Alexis Lger (the real name of the poet Saint-John Perse), the leading French diplomat in the 
thirties; yes, he was not an “appeaser.” Still, I’m not going to agree with O’Keefe’s opinion, which glorifies the poet’s political role in the prewar period.

I base my negative view on Saint-John Perse’s diplomatic career from a series of statements by Jean-Baptiste Duroselle, one of the foremost historians of French diplomacy in the twentieth century. In his major book, La dcadence, 1932–1939, Duroselle says: “Lger tried rather to defend the policy established in the twenties than to adapt French diplomacy to the new circumstances.” And later: “he had always remained a representative of an optimistic, moderate left, who didn’t dare to see clearly and to understand that Hitler would go to the very end.”

Krakow, Poland

Originally Published: January 28, 2008

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This prose originally appeared in the February 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

February 2008

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 Adam  Zagajewski

Biography

Adam Zagajewski was born in Lvov, Poland, in 1945; as an infant he was relocated with his family to western Poland. He lived in Berlin for a couple of years, moved to France in 1982, and has taught at universities in the United States, including the University of Houston and the University of Chicago. Zagajewski writes in Polish; many of his books of poetry and essays have been translated into English.

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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