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«Miłosz Like the World»

Poet in the Eyes of Polish Literary Critics


Zdzislaw Lapinski

Czesław Miłosz, poet, literary critic, essayist and Nobel Laureate, is a familiar person to the Anglophone literary community. But American and British critics in the main are not very competent in the intimate features of Polish literary culture and have no access to the Polish language. This volume presents some of the most penetrating commentaries on Miłosz’s œuvre by Polish critics. They illuminate both intrinsic poetic matters, such as the verse structure or the genre tradition, and the specific historic background of his poems, such as life under Nazi occupation. This comprehensive outline will be indispensable to anyone wanting to understand the real meaning of the often enigmatic writer and his, as Helen Vendler called it, Shakespearean breadth.
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The Dilemmas of Self-Presentation: Michał Paweł Markowski



The Dilemmas of Self-Presentation

Michał Paweł Markowski

“Who was I? Who am I now, years later?”, begins The Land of Ulro,1 which is considered by many to be the essayistic summa of Czesław Miłosz.2 The question is par excellence an autobiographical one. The book ends by ascertaining definitely the identity of the past and the present self: “the boy and the poet-‘catastrophist’ and the old professor in Berkeley are the same man.”3 None of the autobiographical books by Miłosz are free from such gestures of self-presentation. It is not only Native Realm that constitutes a narrative about Miłosz’s life – his desire to provide other people with a “real image of himself” can be deemed an inseparable element of his works. Writing as a simultaneous “revealing of oneself” and “solving of puzzles” serves as the basis for a double hermeneutical movement, which leads to the exegesis of the “I” and the deciphering of signs scattered in culture. In both cases the stakes are high, as we encounter “something more than literature” – a trace of existence that escapes all rational explanation. How can we, however, define this ambiguous desire to determine one’s image, which permeates all of the non-fictional writing by Miłosz? If we are to agree with Michel Beaujur4 that autobiography provides an answer to the question, “Who was I and what did I achieve before I became the person I am today?”, while self-portraits – on the contrary – operate...

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