Zeszyty Literackie (PAST JOURNAL)

Zeszyty Literackie was a partner of the Eurozine network from January 2002 to August 2013.

Zeszyty Literackie [Literary Notebooks] is a Polish quarterly devoted to literary and social criticism. It was established in Paris in 1982, and its first issue appeared in January 1983. Before 1989, the quarterly had no permission to circulate. It was reprinted by underground publishing houses. Since 1990, the magazine has been printed in Poland, and its editorial offices were moved to Warsaw in 1992.

Editorial board: STANISLAW BARANCZAK – poet, essayist, translator, professor at Harvard University (USA); EWA BIENKOWSKA – philosopher focusing on the European culture of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, author of books on Nietzsche, Wagner, and Venice, lives in France; JOSIF BRODSKI – (d. 1996) Russian-American poet, Nobel Prize 1987; WOJCIECH KARPINSKI – writer, author of books on Jozef Czapski, van Gogh, and the culture of Polish immigrants, employed at the French Academy of Science in Paris; PETR KRAL – Czech expert on twentieth-century cinema, art, and literature, employed at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and at the Office of the President of the Czech Republic in Prague; EWA KURYLUK – painter, art critic, and writer, presently living in Paris; ROBERTO SALVADORI – Italian editor, author of books on philosophy and essays on the origins of modern art, author of a popular series of city portraits published in both the Italian and the Polish press, a lecturer at Warsaw University, lives in Milan; TOMAS VENCLOVA – the most eminent and widely recognized Lithuanian poet, professor at Yale University (USA); ADAM ZAGAJEWSKI – poet, lecturer at Houston University (USA), lives in Paris; MAREK ZAGANCZYK – assistant editor, lecturer at the Warsaw Theatre Academy. BARBARA TORUNCZYK (Warsaw) is the magazine’s founder, editor-in-chief, and the originator of its book series.


The aim of the magazine is to bring Polish and world cultures together and to create a universal model of European culture. Many European writers have become known in Poland thanks to ZESZYTY LITERACKIE. We have contributed to the popularity of such authors as: AKHMATOVA, AUDEN, BLIXEN, BRODSKI, CIORAN, TSVETAIEVA, ELIADE, HOFMANNSTHAL, JÜNGER, KUNDERA, NABOKOV.

We published the works of the following authors, even before they became Nobel Prize laureates: BRODSKI, GORDIMER, HEANEY, SEIFERT, WALCOTT.

Our major concern is to draw together central and east European literatures and traditions, and to make their most outstanding works part of a powerful, liberal, and accessible canon of European culture.

As part of our effort to popularize world literature in Poland, our magazine is very concerned about the quality of translation. The eminent translators STANISLAW BARANCZAK, JOANNA GUZE, PAWEL HERTZ, ZYGMUNT KUBIAK publish their works in ZESZYTY LITERACKIE.

Another way of presenting European culture to Polish readers has been to publish a series of issues devoted to European cities – CITY PORTRAITS: Issue no. 39 is devoted to Venice, no. 52 to Prague, no. 60 to Italy in general, and more of such issues are being prepared.

As a magazine established in exile, we attempt to unify Polish literature in exile with the literature created in Poland, and to present the Polish reader with outstanding examples of Polish literature in exile. Ever since it was established, ZESZYTY LITERACKIE has been printing such authors as: CZESLAW MILOSZ, JOZEF CZAPSKI, KONSTANTY A. JELENSKI, LESZEK KOLAKOWSKI. Our particular contribution and speciality in this area is finding and publishing unedited works of WITOLD GOMBROWICZ, JERZY STEMPOWSKI and ALEKSANDER WAT.

Our quarterly tries to support young Polish writers. During the 20 years of its existence, many of the authors who had their debut in ZESZYTY LITERACKIE have gained recognition.

Some of the most popular issues have been devoted to eminent European writers and artists: BALTHUS, KAREN BLIXEN, CIORAN, LEONOR FINI, GOMBROWICZ, JÜNGER, NABOKOV. Profiles of the twentieth century’s greatest artists and writers became another speciality of ZESZYTY LITERACKIE. To accomplish this, we edited a series of issues devoted to our masters and collaborators: Homage to JOSIF BRODSKI (ZL 57), JOZEF CZAPSKI (44, 45), ZBIGNIEW HERBERT (68), KONSTANTY JELENSKI (21), CZESLAW MILOSZ (75).

In a regular section called CENTRAL EUROPE, we have been trying to present the greatest achievements of our geo-political region, searching for a new European perspective. Our readers have had the opportunity to read BRODSKI, CIORAN, ELIADE, HOLAN, KUNDERA, PILINSZKY, VENCLOVA. After the great political changes of 1989, we have also been trying to present the problems typical to this region. T. GARTON ASH and VACLAV HAVEL have written on politial subjects, while BIENKOWSKA, EDELMAN, FEJTO, KURYLUK, HOFFMAN, MANEA, SALVADORI – aware of the imprints of the past – have analyzed artistic tradition and the relationship between politics and art. BERNANOS and SIMONE WEIL, with comments by JERZY TUROWICZ (ZL 63) make us more aware of the indisputable truth: “Justice is a constant fugitive from the victorious camp” (S. Weil).

We are constantly trying to contribute to a lively and open European culture, not only by influencing its literature, but also by setting new standards for social behaviour and cooperation in the new, post-Yalta Europe. The members of our editorial board are Poles, both from Poland and Paris, a Czech, a Lithuanian, an Italian, and a Russian. Having been established in western Europe for many years, we made many contacts and friends in the western countries and adopted their professional and social standards.

Through the choice of writers, literary genres, and subjects, we are trying to counterbalance the aggressive mass culture and to popularize authentic literary values, to foster an artistic and intellectual sensibility based on the universal and permanent achievements of European civilization. ZESZYTY LITERACKIE is a classic among magazines attempting to reach this aim. The magazine can be found in libraries all over the world, both in the West, and in central and eastern Europe. In the US, the magazine has been recommended by MLA (Master List and Directory of Periodicals). In Poland, it gained the recommendation of the Ministry of Education.

One of the ways to promote our magazine was the establishing of a series of irregular supplements (beginning with the jubilee 1-50 issue), collecting the most important works published in the previous issues of Zeszyty Literackie. In ZL 1-50, we presented a selection of poetry first published by our magazine, and we reprinted the correspondence between CWIETAJEWA, PASTERNAK, and RILKE, from our old issues still published in Paris.

In issue 55, we published again, but for the first time in Poland, the famous essays by BRODSKI from “Less than One”. For our fifteenth anniversary, we reprinted the issue devoted to KONSTANTY A. JELENSKI. ZL 69 was supplemented with an essay by Roberto SALVADORI – a comprehensive portrait of Katarzyna Kobro, written on the occasion of her sculpture exhibition.

In Paris in the 1980s, we published 11 books (poems by BARANCZAK, BRODSKI, MERRILL, VENCLOVA, ZAGAJEWSKI; essays by BRODSKI, KARPINSKI, MICHNIK, ZAGAJEWSKI).

We wish to continue this activity and to preserve in book form the literary and intellectual output of our magazine and of its milieu, believing it is a valuable contribution to modern European culture. In January 1999, the Zeszyty Literackie Fund published a book: WITOLD LUTOSLAWSKI, Postscriptum – on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the eminent composer’s death. In February 2000, we published letters by Jerzy STEMPOWSKI. For the International Book Fair in Frankfurt 2000, where Poland was a guest of honour, we published, for the first time in book form, a collection of essays by ZBIGNIEW HERBERT, Labirynt nad morzem; in 2001 we published book of poems by TOMAS VENCLOVA and essays by ROBERTO SALVADORI.