Poems from the Abyss

Czesław Miłosz, the Polish poet, writer, diplomat, exile, and Nobel laureate, was a figure whose own life seemed to embody the turmoil of the twentieth century. He lived through both world wars and the Russian Revolution, experienced fascism, communism, and democracy, lived in Eastern and Western Europe and, later, the United States, and he returned again and again to these events in his writing. “To me Miłosz is one of those authors whose personal life dictates his work…. Except for his poems, all of his writing is tied to his…personal history or to the history of his times,” Witold Gombrowicz, the other great Polish writer in exile, said of him. I agree, but would not exclude Miłosz’s poems and don’t believe he would either, since he regarded his highest achievement as a poet to be his ability to fuse history and his personal experience.

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