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This review is taken from PN Review 50, Volume 12 Number 6, July - August 1986.

VIOLENCES Czeslaw Milosz, The Land of Ulro (Carcanet) £12.95

Here is the tale of a man thrice exiled: from his country, his language and his people. It is not altogether surprising therefore that this curious book, this 'maverick work' of spiritual autobiography as the author himself describes it, this literary excursion into realms of the exotic (including much discussion of works by Polish writers that have not been translated into English), this recondite probing and sorting of intensely personal ideas of a philosophical and religious nature, should concern itself most centrally with the problem of spiritual disinheritance - its causes and devastating consequences for the human race in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In little, its pessimistic purpose is to 'confirm the awareness of our common fate'.

The name Ulro, that land of spiritual affliction, that place where man is reduced to the status of a supererogatory number, is from Blake of course: 'They rage like wild beasts in the forests of affliction/In the dreams of Ulro they repent of their human kindness'. Indeed Blake's is a brooding presence throughout this book; for was it not Blake, asks Milosz, who poured scorn upon the Deists' characterization of Nature as an ingenious machine; who scoffed at Rousseau for seeing in it an easy panacea for a fallen civilization; and who took exception to that early Romantic habit of celebrating the exaltation of souls amidst all those living rocks and stones and trees? No, such fashionable, cultish things were not for Blake - and nor are they for ...


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