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After the Fall

On the Writings of Czesław Miłosz

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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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Universe Like a Crucifixion

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The condition of human nature, characterized by a suspension between bitterness and blessing, rejection and affirmation, is a state whose essence is well introduced by a significant work “Either–or.” The poem consists of three distinct stanzas. The first two form an alternative, eponymous “Either–or.” The alternative consists of two elements, which represent two opposing visions of the world. The foundation of the first one is an assumption that God incarnated in man, died and resurrected:

If God incarnated himself in man, died and rose from the dead, All human endeavors deserve attention Only to the degree that they depend on this, I.e., acquire meaning thanks to this event (NCP, p. 540).

The second vision of reality has its intellectual basis in the denial of the dogmas of Christian faith:

If what is proclaimed by Christianity is a fiction



We should go and proclaim without cease

And remind people at every step of what we are:

That our capacity for self-delusion has no limits

And that anybody who believes anything is mistaken (NCP, pp. 540–541).

“Either–or”: affirmation or rejection, appreciation, or denial of the world’s absolute sense. This alternative does not only concern faith and the lack of faith, the attitude toward Christianity, but also the general existential attitude.

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