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    Zbigniew Herbert died 25 years ago

    On July 28, 1998, Zbigniew Herbert, one of the most significant Polish poets of the 20th century, passed away. His works, including “Mr. Cogito” and “Report from the Besieged City,” showcased a crystalline tone, transcending reality, as acclaimed by his biographer, Andrzej Franaszek.

    In the last year of his life, Herbert spent increasing time in hospitals, battling asthma while unable to quit smoking. He joked in letters to friends about smoking under the covers, and they smuggled cigarettes for him. Smoking became a matter of honor, a fleeting confirmation of freedom when walking was no longer possible, wrote Franaszek.

    In autumn 1977, Herbert nearly died from pneumonia, losing his ability to speak for months. In a miraculous recovery, he regained his voice and even recorded a radio interview with Roman Borowska. Though his voice was strained, it showcased a fierce determination to surpass bodily limitations.

    Herbert engaged in political activism, signing petitions for cultural freedom and speaking out against oppressive regimes. However, he also faced disputes, such as a public clash with Czesław Miłosz and criticism of fellow writers’ communist past.

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