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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry

Mr Cogito

Zbigniew Herbert

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To purchase Mr Cogito

Title: Mr Cogito
Author: Zbigniew Herbert
Genre: Novel
Written: 1974 (Eng.:1993)
Length: 62 pages
Original in: Polish
Availability: Mr Cogito - US
Mr Cogito - UK
Mr Cogito - Canada
Monsieur Cogito - France
Herr Cogito - Deutschland
  • Translated by John and Bogdana Carpenter
  • Polish title: Pan Cogito

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Our Assessment:

A+ : a small but major collection, outstanding.

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The LA Times . 3/10/1993 Richard Eder
The New Republic A 15/11/1993 Stanislaw Baranczak
The NY Times Book Rev. A 21/8/1994 Stephen Dobyns
Poetry . 8/1994 Bruce Murphy
TLS . 8/10/1993 Michael Parker
World Lit. Today A+ Spring 1995 E.J. Czerwinski

  Review Consensus:

  Superlative and significant, well-translated.

  From the Reviews:
  • "(W)hat we have in the present volume is vintage Herbert and as great a cycle of poems as has been written in this century by any poet." - E.J. Czerwinski, World Literature Today

  • "I have read Mr. Herbert since the late 60's, and I must say there is no other living poet whose work I enjoy as much or whom I admire more." - Stephen Dobyns, The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Mr Cogito is already a modern classic, one of the most impressive collections coming out of Europe since World War II. A number of Polish poets are now familiar in literary circles, led by Nobel laureates Czeslaw Milosz and Wislawa Symborska, but Herbert is certainly not the least of them. This collection, which assembles most of the early Mr. Cogito poems, is a landmark of poetry and a focal point of Herbert's career.
       The gentle irony of the verses, each presenting a simple question or issue, is deceptively forthright. There is a depth and resonance to these verses, and their strength is not dependent on their historical context (i.e. people should not be put off by the thought that they are "Eastern European" and from the 1960's and 70's).
       It is a remarkable collection easily standing up to time. Highly and unequivocally recommended.

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Mr Cogito: Zbigniew Herbert: Other books by Herbert under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Poetry under review

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About the Author:

       Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert (1924-1998) was born in Lwow. He earned degrees from the University of Krakow, the University of Warsaw, and the Nicholas Copernicus University of Torun. He began publishing his poetry in 1956, though he continued to have difficulties getting much of it published in his native Poland. One of the foremost modern European poets, he has been extensively translated.

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