Biography

Czesław Miłosz was born June 30th 1911 in Szetejnie, Lithuania. He was a poet, prose writer, essayist, and translator. He won the Nobel Prize in 1980, and many other prestigious literary awards throughout his life, his works have been translated into forty-two languages. He received honorary doctorates from universities in the USA and in Poland, he became a U.S citizen in 1970 and an honorary citizen of Lithuania and the City of Krakow.

czeslaw-miloszMiłosz spent his school days and university youth in Wilno [Vilnius], where he also made his debut as a poet, and lived out the German occupation in Warsaw. After the World War II he worked in the diplomatic service of the People’s Republic in the USA and in France until 1951, when he appealed for political asylum in Paris.

In 1960 he left France for California, where he spent twenty years as a professor of Slavic languages and literature, lecturing at Berkeley University. Until 1989 he mainly published in the famous Paris émigré journal „Culture” and in the Polish underground press. After 1989 he lived in Berkeley and in Crakow. Czesław Miłosz died on 14 August 2004 at his Crakow home, at the aged 93.

Critics from many countries, and also from contemporary poets (like Joseph Brodsky, for instance), approach Milosz’s literary output in superlatives. His poetry is rich in visual-symbolic metaphor, where the idyllic and the apocalyptic style go hand-in-hand. His poems many a time suggests naked philosophical discourse of religious epiphany. Songs and theological studies alternate, as in the „child-like rhymes” about the German Occupation of Warsaw in The World: Naive Poems (1943) or Six Lectures in Verse from the volume Chronicles (1987). Milosz transcends genre, as a poet and translator, so he moves easily from contemporary American poets to the Bible (portions of which he has rendered anew into Polish).

As a novelist, he won renown with The Seizure of Power (1953), about the setup of communism in Poland. Both Milosz and his readers have a especial liking for the semi-autobiographical The Issa Valley (1955), a tale of growing up and the loss of innocence that abounds in philosophical sub-texts. There are also many personal themes in Milosz’s essays, as well as in The Captive Mind (1953), a classic study of the literature of totalitarianism. Then Native Realm (1959) remains one of the best studies of the evolution of the Central European mentality. Subsequently The Land of Ulro (1977) is a sort of intellectual and literary autobiography. It was followed by books like The Witness of Poetry (1982), The Metaphysical Pause (1995) and Life on Islands (1997) that infiltrate to the central issues of life and literature today.