Czeslaw Milosz

Czeslaw Milosz

Polish-American author, translator, and critic who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980.
The son of a civil engineer, Milosz completed his university studies in Wilno (now Vilnius, Lithuania), which then belonged to Poland. By the time he published his first book of verse, Poemat o czasie zastyglym ("Poem of Frozen Time"), at age 21, he was both a socialist and a leader of the Catastrophist group of poets, who were so named for their predictions of impending worldwide disaster. During the Nazi occupation of Poland, Milosz was active in the resistance and edited, wrote, or translated many clandestine works, such as Pieshn niepodlegla (1942; "Invincible Song").

His collection of poetry Ocalenie (1945; "Rescue") became one of the first books published in communist Poland, and the new government further rewarded him with an appointment to the foreign service. After serving as cultural attache in Washington, D.C., and as first secretary for cultural affairs in Paris, Milosz sought political asylum in France in 1951. Nine years later he emigrated to the United States, where he joined the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley and became a naturalized citizen in 1970.

Though Milosz was primarily a poet, his best-known work became his collection of essays Zniewolony umysl (1953; The Captive Mind), which condemned the accommodation of many Polish intellectuals to communism. This theme dominated his novel Zdobycie wladzy (1955; The Seizure of Power). His poetic works are noted for their classical style and their preoccupation with philosophical and political issues. An important example is Traktat poetycki (1957; "The Poetic Treatise"), which combines a defense of poetry with a history of Poland from 1918 to the 1950s.

His other works include his autobiography, Rodzinna Europa (1959; Native Realm); Prywatne obowiazki (1972; "Private Obligations"); the novel Dolina Issy (1955; The Issa Valley); and a history of Polish literature (1969). Milosz published several volumes of English translations, including The Collected Poems 1931-1987 (1988) and Provinces (1993; contains poems 1987-91).

Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn, The Poet's Work: An Introduction to Czeslaw Milosz (1991), discusses his life and work. Aleksander Fiut, The Eternal Moment: The Poetry of Czeslaw Milosz (1990; originally published in Polish, 1987), presents analyses for advanced study.

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