March 1975-January 1981: Fourth Sojourn in the West

Flew to Vienna on March 4 1975.

Remained in Austria (Vienna, Knoppen, Salzkammergut, Graz, Rauris), gave radio and television interviews and held Authors’ Meetings. Subsequently travelled to Germany to hold similar meetings (Munich, Düsseldorf, Freiburg, Berlin, Frankfurt) and then to Paris to collect funds for a trip to Greece. Returned to Vienna on June 11 and then travelled to Athens via Yugoslavia.

Visited Greece to the end of July 1975.

At the beginning of August 1975 returned to Austria via Yugoslavia, stopped over in Knoppen. Took part in the Europäische Forum [European Forum] in the Tyrolean Alps from August 30 to September 3.

Went to Berlin in mid-September. On September 20 gave a lecture at the Akademie der Künste [Academy of Fine Arts] titled Die Gegenwart der Geschichte [The Presence of History]. Received a three month grant and spent the next three months, October to December, at the Akademie der Künste Villa Serpentara in Olevano Romano, near Rome. Went to Germany for a few days at the beginning of December to take part in a big conference in Frankfurt-am-Main dedicated to R.M. Rilkem on the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Travelled to Germany again in January 1976; went to Berlin, after a short stay in Munich at the Bayerische Akademie der Künste [Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts].

Returned to Poland in March 1976. Subjected to a publishing ban (punishment for signing List 59 [Letter of 59] in December 1975, protesting against planned changes to the Constitution of the Polish People’s Republic [PRL]); his works were not published until July 1979 when they once again appeared in «Twórczości» [Creativity] (series titled Apokryfy holenderskie [Dutch Apocrypha], later included in a tome of essays Martwa natura z wędzidłem [Still Life with a Bridle]).

Flew from Warsaw to Amsterdam in June 1976. Took part in Poetry International, a festival held in Rotterdam. In September travelled in the footsteps of Dutch Painting in Belgium: visited museums in Brussels, Bruges, Gent, Antwerp.

The Herberts decided to settle in Berlin for a longer stay in 1976, and ended up living in the home of the married couple Barbara Stiess and Werner Heinrich, for nearly four years.

1977 to 1978 was a time of coming to terms with failing health, hospital stays, and work on drafts of Martwa natura z wędzidłem [Still Life with a Bridle] and a few visits (amongst others to England in 1978).

In April 1979 Herbert learned that he had been awarded the Petrarch Prize, which he personally collected in Verona on June 16, 1979. Went on to visit Venice and Ravenna. It is that award that probably determined the lifting of the censorship ban attached to his name in Poland.

Visited Hungary for the first (and last) time at the invitation of publisher Európa. Worked on a translation of Max Frisch’s Triptych as well as historical sketches.

From March 12-15, 1980, took part in the Rauriser Literatutage [Rauriser Book Fair], in the town of Rauris in Austria, where he also collected the Wüstenrot Literaturpreis [Wüstenrot Literary Prize].

Took part in the Oxford Poetry Festival at the beginning of May. Went to Italy in mid-May where he once again participated in a series of meetings in Florence accompanying the awarding of the Petrarch Prize, after which he visited Pisa. In July briefly stayed in Venice and Padua.

Herbert arrived in Warsaw for a short stay in September 1980 for his mother’s funeral. He gave Adam Michnik a long interview, that appeared in 1981 in the periodical «Krytyka» [Critique] titled Płynie się zawsze do źródeł, pod prąd, z prądem płyną śmiecie [One always swims to sources, against the current, trash flows with the current].

I ramble from Mt Athos right up to the furthest of the Cyclades, Thira that is Santorini, by train, bus, ship, on the back of a donkey, tired, unkempt, hungry, not always happy, but sometimes nearly overmuch. I want to get to know Greece, but this time not as the tourist sees it – and that at times can be very tiring.

(Excerpt from a letter to Jerzy Turowicz, Athens, July 15 1975)

I will of course write to «Zapis» [Recorder] and I support this idea, or as our Czech brothers put it ‘attack’.
I am going about collecting contributions for the Komitet Pomocy Robotnikom [Workers Support Committee].

(Excerpt from a letter to Adam Michnik, Berlin, December 1 1976)