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- Aug 22, 2023
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Czesław Miłosz (1911–2004) was a giant of twentieth-century literature, not least because he lived through and wrote about many of the most extreme events of that extreme century, from the world wars and the Holocaust to the Cold War. Over a seven-decade career, he produced an important body of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, including classics such as The Captive Mind, a reflection on the hypnotic power of ideology, and Native Realm, a memoir. In this book, Eva Hoffman, like Miłosz a Polish-born writer who immigrated to the West, presents an eloquent personal portrait of the life and work of her illustrious fellow exile.
Miłosz experienced the horrors of World War II in Warsaw—the very epicenter of the inferno—and witnessed the unfolding of the Holocaust from up close. After the war, he lived as a permanent exile—from Poland, communism, and mainstream American culture. Hoffman explores how exile, historical disasters, and Miłosz’s origins in Eastern Europe shaped his vision, and she occasionally compares her own postwar trajectory with Miłosz’s to show how the question of “the Other Europe” is still with us today. She also examines his later turn to the poetry of memory and loss, driven by the need to remember and honor his many friends and others killed in the Holocaust.
Combining incisive personal and critical insights, On Czesław Miłosz captures the essence of the life and work of a great poet and writer.