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11 December 2018

«Old City Centres Have a Special Magnetism Which Attracts People»

Interview with Adam Zagajewski

Adam Zagajewski speaks about the importance he believes old city centres have as magnets attracting life, thus giving him a feeling of permanency and calm.

Adam Zagajewski is attracted by the medieval idea of the city structured around the historic centre, as is the case of Lviv, his birthplace, and of Kraków, where he presently resides. The medieval centre is the organising hub of the city, bringing order to it. Knowing that it is there, but without needing to go every day, Zagajewski has a feeling of calm, a sensation that, beyond the usual ups and downs of life, all is well.

When asked about his favourite public space, Zagajewski mentions two. The first is the central Grand Square (often called Main Market Square) near the old city centre of Kraków, a huge, beautiful space surrounded by old houses. This ancient central square has a magnetic power of attraction and anyone who goes there can be sure of bumping into friends and acquaintances. In Paris, however, Haussmann’s renovation transformed the centre and turned it into a polycentric metropolis. Nowadays, the River Seine has become the focus of the city and, he believes, something akin to a central square because of all the people on its crowded banks. It is here, too, where magic occurs, calling into question Heraclites’ famous statement about the permanent flow of rivers. Paris, says Zagajewski, is the only city where one can bathe twice in the same river.

The author took part in September 2016 in the poetry Reading Adam Zagajewski: Ecstasy and Irony in the company of Narcís Comadira, Pepa López, Biel Mesquida and Sebastià Perelló

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