On this day: Czeslaw Milosz

by Gerelyn Hollingsworth

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On this day, a century ago, the great Polish poet, Czeslaw Milosz was born in Lithuania. (Click here to hear his name pronounced.)

"The year was 1911. The parish had two churches. To the nearest, the wooden one, people drove or walked to Mass. The other, a baroque structure of stone (baroque was introduced by the Jesuits) and three miles away, housed the civil registry. . . . There I was baptized and received into the bosom of the Roman Catholic Church."

--Native Realm: A Search for Self-Definition, by Czeslaw Milosz, translated from the Polish by Catherine S. Leach, Doubleday, 1968, page 16. This book may be read online. Milosz's chapters on his "Catholic Education", in which he explains the impact his Latin teacher had on his development as a poet, and "Nationalities", in which he describes the Jews of Vilnius, are particularly interesting.

Czeslaw Milosz won The Nobel Prize in Literature 1980.

In 1989, Czeslaw Milosz and his brother Andrzej were honored by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.

Czeslaw Milosz died at his home in Krakow, on August 14, 2004, aged 93. Click here for his obituary in The Times. At the end of the obituary is "A Confession", a poem that is "the essence of Milosz".

For another example of Milosz's poetry, see "Album of Dreams" in Selected Poems, 1931-2004.

For many more books by and about Czeslaw Milosz, click here. Among them is Striving Towards Being: The Letters of Thomas Merton and Czeslaw Milosz. The two men corresponded for ten years.

Click here for his obituary in the UCBerkeleyNews. He taught at Berkeley for over twenty years. "At the [Solidarity] monument in Gdansk, you have icons of three figures: Lech Walesa, Pope John Paul II and Milosz."

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