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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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Mindfulness – Understanding – Wisdom

Extract

The thought about the world’s atrocity constantly returns in Miłosz’s works. An interesting poetic formula that includes this observation – constitutive for Miłosz’s work – is the metaphor of earth’s bitterness. The sensual character of this poetic image harmonizes well with its context: the relation between man and woman. This is how these two motives coexist in the poems “After Paradise” and “And Yet.” In the former, the reality of the exiled from paradise is characterized with the following words: “Above ashes / On a bitter, bitter earth” (NCP, p. 407). In the latter, the existential situation of man and woman is described with a contrast: “Not in a garden, on the bitter earth” (NCP, p. 515). The sense of the metaphor of bitterness, which refers to the experience of senses, may be easily mentally connected with the sensual dimension of the relations of people. However, it is not only about the erotic sensuality, but it is also about, to an even greater extent, the sensuality of mindfulness. In both these poems, it is mindfulness that is a possible answer of man to the bitterness of the earth.1 In the poem “After Paradise,” it takes the form of “what is, though it fades away,” of gratitude for everything that exists in a manner that may be sensually captured. In “And Yet,” the thought about the need of solicitude for a particular being is confronted with the observation of belonging to a community. However, the sense of a phrase that is...

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