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A Defense of Ardor: Essays

4.26 of 5 stars 4.26  ·  rating details  ·  74 ratings  ·  10 reviews
Ardor, inspiration, the soul, the sublime: Such terms have long since fallen from favor among critics and artists alike. In his new collection of essays, Adam Zagajewski continues his efforts to reclaim for art not just the terms but the scanted spiritual dimension of modern human existence that they stake out.

Bringing gravity and grace to his meditations on art, society,
Paperback, 208 pages
Published October 19th 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published September 29th 2004)
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daniel greeson
As one reads (or should read) W.H. Auden to get a certain feeling for the literature of the 20th century from a Western European perspective, so one should look towards Adam Zagajewski as a prime candidate for an Eastern European one. A Defense of Ardor is a wonderful panoramic view of the intellectual ferment of Poland under Communism, the impact of various authors upon Zagajewski’s intellectual and poetic life, and a guide to reading the other giants of Polish literature of the last generation ...more
Zagajewski has this way of writing in a fashion where the words just make sense in whatever order he has put them in. In this book of essays, he discusses various things. Writers he has known, reading Nietzsche in communist Poland, reading while on vacation, arguments for poetry. Some essays are more dense than others and take a while to get through, but reading through them, you tend to feel something with every word he's laid on the page.

A Defense of Ardor has given me more of an urge to read
Moses Nakamura
A fascinating look into the mind of a Polish intellectual, looking at the world through a very polish lens. The things he sees and thinks about are in no way alien because of the Polishness–simply different. This might be because of the heavy influence that the west has had on him, but I think it is more because he simply sees clearly. The "Defense of Ardor" that the eponymous essay, and, in fact, every essay in the collection is about, is a global trend, and one that many of his favorite Polish ...more
A thought-provoking, intellectual look at the pursuit of ardor in life and writing. It challenges readers on their contentment with ordinary life and pushes them toward the pursuit of something higher. There are moments when Zagajewski seems to grow distracted by reflection on the biographical details of his personal heroes, but his point often wins out in the end. Be warned, however: this is no light reading.
Isla McKetta
This is one of those books I want to purchase many copies of and press into the hands of friends. The pages are now littered with annotations and the initials of people to whom I will quote certain passages in letters. Zagajewski writes about his fellow writers and about the way we think and what moves us to create and how. I closed the book after each essay, wanting to wrap myself in his thoughts.
Well, I loved the chaptes on poetry. The book is written for intellectuals and "super-readers." In other words, many people would find it a bit elitist and perhaps out of touch. But if you read a lot and are interested in poetry, then it works rather well.
I liked this collection of essays on poetry, intellectual Eastern Europe, and the author's encounters with writers and poets - mainly in Poland. It's a thoughtful and interesting collection.
Nov 13, 2008 jeff rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: essays
An inspiring read. Is it a shame to say that i like his essays more than his poems? Maybe just a bit, but these essays make my chest relax and make me want to read everything. Again.
In Polish. Many re-reads ahead of me, that's for sure.
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Adam Zagajewski is a Polish poet, novelist, translator and essayist. He was awarded the 2004 Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

The Zagajeski family was expelled from Lwów by the Ukrainians to central Poland in 1945.
In 1982 he emigrated to Paris, but in 2002 he returned to Poland, and resides in Kraków.
His poem "Try To Praise The Mutilated World", printed in The New Yorker, became famou
More about Adam Zagajewski...
Without End: New and Selected Poems Eternal Enemies: Poems Mysticism for Beginners: Poems Unseen Hand: Poems Another Beauty

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“Read for yourselves, read for the sake of your inspiration, for the sweet turmoil in your lovely head. But also read against yourselves, read for questioning and impotence, for despair and erudition, read the dry sardonic remarks of cynical philosophers like Cioran or even Carl Schmitt, read newspapers, read those who despise, dismiss or simply ignore poetry and try to understand why they do it. Read your enemies, read those who reinforce your sense of what's evolving in poetry, and also read those whose darkness or malice or madness or greatness you can't understand because only in this way will you grow, outlive yourself, and become what you are.” 19 likes
“Doubt is more intelligent than poetry, insofar as it tells malicious tales about the world, things we’ve long known but struggled to hide from ourselves. But poetry surpasses doubt, pointing to what we cannot know. Doubt is narcissistic; we look at everything critically, including ourselves, and perhaps that comforts us. Poetry, on the other hand, trusts the world, and rips us from the deep-sea diving suits of our “I”; it believes in the possibility of beauty and its tragedy. Poetry’s argument with doubt has nothing in common with the facile quarrel of optimism and pessimism. The twentieth century’s great drama means that we now deal with two kinds of intellect: the resigned and the seeking, the questing. Doubt is poetry for the resigned. Whereas poetry is searching, endless wandering. Doubt is a tunnel, poetry is a spiral. Doubt prefers to shut, while poetry opens. Poetry laughs and cries, doubt ironizes. Doubt is death’s plenipotentiary, its longest and wittiest shadow; poetry runs toward an unknown goal. Why does one choose poetry while another chooses doubt? We don’t know and we’ll never find out. We don’t know why one is Cioran and the other is Milosz.” 0 likes
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