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After the Fall

On the Writings of Czesław Miłosz


Tomasz Garbol

Tomasz Garbol’s book reconstructs Czesław Miłosz’s poetic vision of the world after the Fall. The entry point to this approach is the conviction about the ambivalence of previous interpretations of Miłosz’s works, especially about his bipolar poetic worldview (his intellectual and existential division between pessimism and ecstasy) and his understanding of the consequences of the Fall (reversible or fatalistic). The book is a literary studies take on the relationship between literature and religion. The main direction is that Miłosz’s main need in art comes from his yearning for contact with the meaning of reality, which he seeks in the activity of poetic imagination.

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Reminders and Motivations


Aleksander Fiut writes:

With the passage of time it is increasingly clear that through his writing Milosz relates the history of his own disinheritance, and not just his alone. He is reminiscent of Zbigniew Herbert, in whose poetry … the fundamental opposition is that of the “realm of inheritance” (“obszar dziedzictwa”) versus the “realm of disinheritance” (“obszar wydziedziczenia”). … Herbert and Milosz interpret the Fall differently. For Herbert, it is a symbol of the loss of an idyll – personal, patriotic, cultural. For Milosz, it is the image of existential division. Herbert sees himself outside the gates of Paradise; Milosz, in the shadow of the tree of knowledge (The Eternal Moment, p. 159).

Fiut was the first to draw such emphatic attention to the importance of Miłosz’s work attributes to the event of the Fall. The shadow which lingers over the poet’s writings is cast by a tree deprived of one fruit, picked against God’s prohibition. By recalling the shadow of the tree of knowledge metaphor, Fiut emphasizes that in Miłosz’s work, the Fall’s fundamental consequence is the existentially torn person. This division concerns oppositions between nature and culture, history and transcendence, religion and science.

Fiut sheds light on a significant aspect of this issue. In fact, the constant presence in the shadow of the tree of knowledge illustrates a longing for the state before the fruit was picked and the inevitability of the situation that followed. Man affected by sin is condemned to culture,...

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