Czeslaw Milosz


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Polish-born US poet and essayist who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980.

Born in Vilnius, Lithuania, Milosz was a leader of the Polish poetic avant-garde in his twenties and co-founder of the literary periodical Zagary. He was active in the Warsaw resistance during World War II, and subsequently served as a diplomat for the postwar Polish government before seeking asylum in France in 1951. Since 1960 Milosz has lived and taught in the USA and taken American nationality. Regarded by Poles as the greatest of their contemporary poets, he is widely known among non-Polish speakers as the author of The Captive Mind (1953), a volume of essays exploring the reaction of intellectuals to communist aspirations to control cultural life. He treated the same issue in fictional form in The Seizure of Power (1955). Native Realm (1959, English translation 1968) is a volume of autobiographical essays; Land of Ulro (1977, English translation 1984) is a selection of his literary criticism and metaphysical speculations. His nonfiction also includes A History of Polish Literature (1969).

An English translation of Milosz's Collected Poems 1931–87 appeared in 1988. Many of his most powerful works reflect the cruelties of war and the effects of repression, earning him the label ‘catastrophist’. However, his lyrical evocation of better times and places affirms his faith in the endurance of more positive human values.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945) — Literature.

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