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Milosz: A Biography

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Andrzej Franaszek's award-winning biography of Czeslaw Milosz--the great Polish poet and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980--offers a rich portrait of the writer and his troubled century, providing context for a larger appreciation of his work. This English-language edition, translated by Aleksandra Parker and Michael Parker, contains a new introduction by the Andrzej Franaszek's award-winning biography of Czeslaw Milosz--the great Polish poet and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980--offers a rich portrait of the writer and his troubled century, providing context for a larger appreciation of his work. This English-language edition, translated by Aleksandra Parker and Michael Parker, contains a new introduction by the translators, along with historical explanations, maps, and a chronology. Franaszek recounts the poet's personal odyssey through the events that convulsed twentieth-century Europe: World War I, the Bolshevik revolution, the Nazi invasion and occupation of Poland, and the Soviet Union's postwar dominance of Eastern Europe. He follows the footsteps of a perpetual outsider who spent much of his unsettled life in Lithuania, Poland, and France, where he sought political asylum. From 1960 to 1999, Milosz lived in the United States before returning to Poland, where he died in 2004. Franaszek traces Milosz's changing, constantly questioning, often skeptical attitude toward organized religion. In the long term, he concluded that faith performed a positive role, not least as an antidote to the amoral, soulless materialism that afflicts contemporary civilization. Despite years of hardship, alienation, and neglect, Milosz retained a belief in the transformative power of poetry, particularly its capacity to serve as a source of moral resistance and a reservoir of collective hope. Seamus Heaney once said that Milosz's poetry is irradiated by wisdom. Milosz reveals how that wisdom was tempered by experience even as the poet retained a childlike wonder in a misbegotten world.


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Andrzej Franaszek's award-winning biography of Czeslaw Milosz--the great Polish poet and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980--offers a rich portrait of the writer and his troubled century, providing context for a larger appreciation of his work. This English-language edition, translated by Aleksandra Parker and Michael Parker, contains a new introduction by the Andrzej Franaszek's award-winning biography of Czeslaw Milosz--the great Polish poet and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980--offers a rich portrait of the writer and his troubled century, providing context for a larger appreciation of his work. This English-language edition, translated by Aleksandra Parker and Michael Parker, contains a new introduction by the translators, along with historical explanations, maps, and a chronology. Franaszek recounts the poet's personal odyssey through the events that convulsed twentieth-century Europe: World War I, the Bolshevik revolution, the Nazi invasion and occupation of Poland, and the Soviet Union's postwar dominance of Eastern Europe. He follows the footsteps of a perpetual outsider who spent much of his unsettled life in Lithuania, Poland, and France, where he sought political asylum. From 1960 to 1999, Milosz lived in the United States before returning to Poland, where he died in 2004. Franaszek traces Milosz's changing, constantly questioning, often skeptical attitude toward organized religion. In the long term, he concluded that faith performed a positive role, not least as an antidote to the amoral, soulless materialism that afflicts contemporary civilization. Despite years of hardship, alienation, and neglect, Milosz retained a belief in the transformative power of poetry, particularly its capacity to serve as a source of moral resistance and a reservoir of collective hope. Seamus Heaney once said that Milosz's poetry is irradiated by wisdom. Milosz reveals how that wisdom was tempered by experience even as the poet retained a childlike wonder in a misbegotten world.

30 review for Milosz: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Lieberman

    Have I been reading this bio for years, or does it only feel that way? I came to Milosz through his political work, The Captive Mind, a searing analysis of life in the postwar Communist Bloc that earned him a reputation for integrity. It also put him in the category of anti-Totalitarian crusaders like Hannah Arendt, George Orwell, Arthur Koestler and Ayn Rand, which was unfortunate because Milosz was far more conflicted than these writers. He was, after all, a poet. They used to pour millet on gra Have I been reading this bio for years, or does it only feel that way? I came to Milosz through his political work, The Captive Mind, a searing analysis of life in the postwar Communist Bloc that earned him a reputation for integrity. It also put him in the category of anti-Totalitarian crusaders like Hannah Arendt, George Orwell, Arthur Koestler and Ayn Rand, which was unfortunate because Milosz was far more conflicted than these writers. He was, after all, a poet. They used to pour millet on graves or poppy seeds To feed the dead who would come disguised as birds. I put this book here for you, who once lived So that you should visit us no more. Here, in the poem "Dedication," he sets his guilt, over having survived World War II and its atrocities, his desire to memorialize his dead, against his urge to live. In its meandering way, Franaszek's bio introduced me to Milosz the man and the poet. Having got through it, I am now prepared to seek out his poetry for its own sake.

  2. 5 out of 5

    loafingcactus

    I spent nearly a year reading this book thoughtfully. I attended CMC so of course I had read Milosz then and he was often spoken of in class and I saw him across the way when he visited the college but that was 1994 and he was quite famous and no undergraduate students actually approached him. Reading this book and learning the horrors he inflicted on women, I'm quite glad I was kept away. I was at a very fragile place in my life and a sexual assault by such an aristocrat of my newer better world I spent nearly a year reading this book thoughtfully. I attended CMC so of course I had read Milosz then and he was often spoken of in class and I saw him across the way when he visited the college but that was 1994 and he was quite famous and no undergraduate students actually approached him. Reading this book and learning the horrors he inflicted on women, I'm quite glad I was kept away. I was at a very fragile place in my life and a sexual assault by such an aristocrat of my newer better world would have destroyed me. It is not too much to say that it may even have killed me. The author is quite forgiving of him and as I am dragged into being forgiving too due to the greatness of his work and I am then also called to shout the reality of these horrors. You want to see at least his wisdom tainted by these acts, and I think there are places that you do. By the end of the book, as Milosz himself responds to the awareness of what he had done that he says only grew at the end of his life, one who admires him is drawn to forgive. However the author of the biography pulls his punch, and in doing so perhaps pulls the readers willingness to grant absolution. I am reminded of the Seven Storey Mountain, where Merton bravely allows the reader to condemn him for his own life before he condemns himself. The author here is too protective of Milosz and not willing to allow that to happen. Or perhaps he too is ready to leave Milosz subtly condemned. Perhaps I should not imagine the imaginings of the author. Yet the story of the women of Milosz's life is not the main story. As is the way of the world we are here to talk about the genius, regardless of what he has done to women. For those who are not familiar, Milosz as a poet and as a man, informed by his Catholic faith, believed profoundly in dealing with the real. His life and homeland had been wrecked by abstract idealists, first the Nazi's attempting to create their ethnostate, and then the Communists attempting to create their utopia. Attention to the real is often criticized as leading to bad faith compromises, "realpolitik" and such. Milosz's whole life was dedicated to showing that in fact the reverse is true, and in the 1990s he saw today's resurgence of authoritarianism coming and tried to share his message even more strongly and pointedly. The breadth of Milosz's life is astonishing. The people, the places, and the years. He was friends with Robert Frost and also was there that day at CMC in my lifetime. He was tied to Lithuania and Poland in a way that people fight about to this day, and France and the United States. He wrote enormous amounts from his youth until he had lived nearly a century. The book is a well organized overview of all of that and the themes of his work. And as our world falls into new horrors, this presentation of a way out is needed now more than ever.

  3. 5 out of 5

    World Literature Today

    "Franaszek’s biography rightly concentrates on the forces that shaped Miłosz’s poetic development. He is trying to show not only the literary figure but also the private, often desperately neurotic man 'with warts and all.'" - George Gömöri This book was reviewed in the Sept/Oct 2017 issue of World Literature Today magazine. Read the full review by visiting our website: https://www.worldliteraturetoday.org/... "Franaszek’s biography rightly concentrates on the forces that shaped Miłosz’s poetic development. He is trying to show not only the literary figure but also the private, often desperately neurotic man 'with warts and all.'" - George Gömöri This book was reviewed in the Sept/Oct 2017 issue of World Literature Today magazine. Read the full review by visiting our website: https://www.worldliteraturetoday.org/...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Davis

    The life of a great intellectual, poet, Noble prize laureate, sage and the man who did not want to be a slave to his government. It’s a complex story of a complex man, with warts and all, not unlike many of the outstanding personalities, who reached the top of their profession whilst not always being the model human beings. His personal life aside, he could be considered a genius, with wisdom to share about life, religion, politics and meaning of all this. Quotes: (Page 105) Many years passed bef The life of a great intellectual, poet, Noble prize laureate, sage and the man who did not want to be a slave to his government. It’s a complex story of a complex man, with warts and all, not unlike many of the outstanding personalities, who reached the top of their profession whilst not always being the model human beings. His personal life aside, he could be considered a genius, with wisdom to share about life, religion, politics and meaning of all this. Quotes: (Page 105) Many years passed before Milosz was able to accept the rites of the Catholic mass as a means to enable humankind to transcend their imperfections, their sinfulness and silliness, to be lifted up to spiritual reality, to some kind of, though perhaps uncertain, recognition of God. (Page 456) Milosz’s warning that ‘whoever considers as normal the order of things in which the strong triumph, and the weak fail, and life ends with death accepts the devil’s rule’ (Page 459 – from ‘If There Is No God’) “If there is no God Not everything is permitted to man. He is still his brother’s keeper And his is not permitted to sadden his brother By saying that there is no God.”

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kamil

    Więcej takich biografii!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jane Cameron

    In depth biography Very, long and in depth biography of Polish Nobel laureate. This makes the first third fascinating with detailed descriptions of the lives of Poles in the first half of the 20th century. After that, not being Polish, I found the details of the people and events hard to wade through. With more background it is probably a 5 star book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Monika

  8. 4 out of 5

    Karolina

  9. 4 out of 5

    Monika

  10. 5 out of 5

    Gargi Punathil

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bevis

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sylwia

  13. 4 out of 5

    Adam Kędzierski

  14. 4 out of 5

    Marek

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kamilė Trakytė

  16. 4 out of 5

    Khulud N.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Robert Vaughan

  18. 4 out of 5

    Aurelie

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cezary Żmuda

  20. 4 out of 5

    Marysia Ratajczak

  21. 4 out of 5

    Apolinarijus

  22. 4 out of 5

    Irena

  23. 4 out of 5

    Magdalena Jurecka

  24. 5 out of 5

    Glenn

  25. 4 out of 5

    Salomeja Be

  26. 4 out of 5

    Steven Seegel

  27. 4 out of 5

    Yoanna

  28. 4 out of 5

    Karen

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nunkun

  30. 5 out of 5

    Maciej Bobula

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