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PN Review 275
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This review is taken from PN Review 275, Volume 50 Number 3, January - February 2024.

Cover of On Czesław Miłosz: Visions from the Other Europe
Tony RobertsEva Hoffman, On Czesław Miłosz: Visions from the Other Europe (Princeton) £18.99
The Captive Mind

Among the frustrations in Czesław Miłosz’s life – and there were as many as there were ironies – were his need to make what he saw as the culturally threadbare America his home and his reputation in the West as an anti-communist writer (The Captive Mind) rather than as a poet. Added to that he felt uncomfortable, he told Ewa Czarnecka at the end of their book-length conversation, being known as a noble poet of witness (‘I never wanted to be involved in history’). He was, rather, a 
meditative poet, he said.

Further, Miłosz wrote in Polish but considered himself Lithuanian and bore a bad conscience from the time he served in the Soviet-controlled Polish diplomatic service in Paris and Washington (1946). For that, his reputation in Poland remained poor for many years. Witness his Guardian obituary from 2004, where Adam Czerniawski called him ‘perhaps the luckiest Polish writer of the last century’, one who ‘could never understand that by choosing a life of high exposure and ideological manoeuvring, he was bound to provoke hostile reactions, as well as fierce loyalties’.

Then, in 1980, Miłosz was plucked almost from obscurity, at a time when the international focus fixed on Polish affairs (with the Solidarity union), when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Fame and forgiveness flowed. He returned ‘home’ in triumph and lived to be feted internationally. His huge Collected Poems (1931–2001) was followed a decade later by a sturdy biography by Andrzej Franaszek and, recently, one on his ...

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