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Czesław Miłosz

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Czesław Miłosz
Czesław Miłosz 1986 (2).jpg
Czesław Miłosz, Kraków, December 1998
Born June 30, 1911(1911-06-30)
Šeteniai, near Kėdainiai, (then Russian Empire, now Lithuania).
Died August 14, 2004 (aged 93)
Kraków, Poland
Occupation Poet, prose writer, essayist
Nationality Polish
Notable award(s) Nobel Prize in Literature (1980)

Czesław Miłosz Template:IPAc-pl (June 30, 1911 – August 14, 2004) was a Lithuanian born Polish poet, prose writer and translator. From 1961 to 1998 he was a professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1980 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He is widely considered one of the greatest poets of the 20th century.

Life in Europe

Czesław Miłosz was born on June 30, 1911 in the village of Šeteniai (Kėdainiai district, Kaunas County) on the border between two Lithuanian historical regions of Samogitia and Aukštaitija in central Lithuania (then part of Russian empire). He was a son of Aleksander Miłosz, a civil engineer, and Weronika, née Kunat. His brother, Andrzej Miłosz (1917–2002), a Polish journalist, translator of literature and of film subtitles into Polish, was a documentary-film producer who created some Polish documentaries about his famous brother.

Miłosz emphasized his identity with the multi-ethnic Grand Duchy of Lithuania, a stance that led to ongoing controversies; he refused to categorically identify himself as either a Pole or a Lithuanian.[1] He once said of himself: "I am a Lithuanian to whom it was not given to be a Lithuanian."[2] Milosz was fluent in Polish, Lithuanian, Russian, English and French.[3]

Andrzej Milosz and Czeslaw Milosz

Czesław Miłosz (right) with brother Andrzej Miłosz at PEN Club World Congress, Warsaw, May 1999

Miłosz memorialized his Lithuanian childhood in a 1981 novel, The Issa Valley, and in the 1959 memoir Native Realm.[4] After graduating from Sigismund Augustus Gymnasium in Vilnius, he studied law at Stefan Batory University and in 1931 he traveled to Paris, where he was influenced by his distant cousin Oscar Milosz, a French poet of Lithuanian descent and a Swedenborgian. His first volume of poetry was published in 1934. After receiving his law degree that year, he again spent a year in Paris on a fellowship. Upon returning, he worked as a commentator at Radio Wilno, but was dismissed for his leftist views.[2] Miłosz wrote all his poetry, fiction and essays in Polish and translated the Old Testament Psalms into Polish.

Miłosz spent World War II in Warsaw, under Nazi Germany's "General Government," where, among other things, he attended underground lectures by Polish philosopher and historian of philosophy and aesthetics, Władysław Tatarkiewicz. He did not participate in the Warsaw Uprising due to residing outside Warsaw proper.

After World War II, Miłosz served as cultural attaché of the communist People's Republic of Poland in Paris. In 1951 he defected and obtained political asylum in France. In 1953 he received the Prix Littéraire Européen (European Literary Prize).

Life in the United States

File:Czeslaw Milosz, 1986.jpg

In 1960 Miłosz emigrated to the United States, and in 1970 he became a U.S. citizen. In 1961 he began a professorship in Polish literature in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1978 he received the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. He retired that same year, but continued teaching at Berkeley. Milosz' personal attitude about living in Berkeley is sensitively portrayed in his poem, "A Magic Mountain," contained in a collection of translated poems entitled "Bells in Winter", published by Ecco Press (1985). Having grown up in the cold climates of Eastern Europe, Milosz was especially struck by the lack of seasonal weather in Berkeley and by some of the brilliant refugees from around the world who became his friends at the university.

In 1980 Miłosz received the Nobel Prize for Literature. Since his works had been banned in Poland by the communist government, this was the first time that many Poles became aware of him.

When the Iron Curtain fell, Miłosz was able to return to Poland, at first to visit and later to live part-time in Kraków. He divided his time between his home in Berkeley and an apartment in Kraków.

In 1989 Miłosz received the U.S. National Medal of Arts and an honorary doctorate from Harvard University.

Through the Cold War, Miłosz's name was often invoked in the United States, particularly by conservative commentators such as William F. Buckley, Jr., usually in the context of Miłosz's 1953 book The Captive Mind. During that period, his name was largely passed over in silence in government-censored media and publications in Poland.

The Captive Mind has been described as one of the finest studies of the behavior of intellectuals under a repressive regime. Miłosz observed that those who became dissidents were not necessarily those with the strongest minds, but rather those with the weakest stomachs; the mind can rationalize anything, he said, but the stomach can take only so much.

Brosen MiloszPoemShipyardGdansk

Memorial to fallen Gdańsk shipyard workers, featuring a poem by Miłosz

Miłosz is honored at Israel's Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust, as one of the "Righteous among the Nations."

A poem by Miłosz appears on a Gdańsk memorial to protesting shipyard workers who had been killed by government security forces in 1970.

Miłosz's books and poems have been translated into English by many hands, including Jane Zielonko (The Captive Mind), Miłosz himself, his Berkeley students (in translation seminars conducted by him), and his friends and Berkeley colleagues, Peter Dale Scott, Robert Pinsky and Robert Hass.


Miłosz died in 2004 at his Kraków home, aged 93. His first wife, Janina, had predeceased him in 1986. His second wife, Carol Thigpen, a U.S.-born historian, died in 2002. He is survived by two sons, Anthony and John Peter.

Miłosz's body was entombed at Kraków's historic Skałka Church, one of the last to be commemorated there.


Herb Lubicz1

Lubicz coat-of-arms.

  • Kompozycja (1930)
  • Podróż (1930)
  • Poemat o czasie zastygłym (1933)
  • Trzy zimy / Three Winters (1936)
  • Obrachunki
  • Wiersze / Verses (1940)
  • Pieśń niepodległa (1942)
  • Ocalenie / Rescue (1945)
  • Traktat moralny / A Moral Treatise (1947)
  • Zniewolony umysł / The Captive Mind (1953)
  • Zdobycie władzy / The Seizure of Power (1953)
  • Światło dzienne / The Light of Day (1953)
  • Dolina Issy / The Issa Valley (1955)
  • Traktat poetycki / A Poetical Treatise (1957)
  • Rodzinna Europa / Native Realm (1958)
  • Kontynenty (1958)
  • Człowiek wśród skorpionów (1961)
  • Król Popiel i inne wiersze / King Popiel and Other Poems (1961)
  • Gucio zaczarowany / Gucio Enchanted (1965)
  • Widzenia nad Zatoką San Francisco / Visions of San Francisco Bay (1969)
  • Miasto bez imienia / City Without a Name (1969)
  • The History of Polish Literature (1969)
  • Prywatne obowiązki / Private Obligations (1972)
  • Gdzie słońce wschodzi i kiedy zapada / Where the Sun Rises and Where It Sets (1974)
  • Ziemia Ulro / The Land of Ulro (1977)
  • Ogród nauk / The Garden of Learning (1979)
  • Hymn o perle / The Poem of the Pearl (1982)
  • The Witness of Poetry (1983)
  • Nieobjęta ziemio / The Unencompassed Earth (1984)
  • Kroniki / Chronicles (1987)
  • Dalsze okolice / Farther Surroundings (1991)
  • Zaczynając od moich ulic / Starting from My Streets (1985)
  • Metafizyczna pauza / The Metaphysical Pause (1989)
  • Poszukiwanie ojczyzny (1991)
  • Rok myśliwego (1991)
  • Na brzegu rzeki / Facing the River (1994)
  • Szukanie ojczyzny / In Search of a Homeland (1992)
  • Legendy nowoczesności / Modern Legends (1996)
  • Życie na wyspach / Life on Islands (1997)
  • Piesek przydrożny / Roadside Dog (1997)
  • Abecadlo Miłosza / Milosz's Alphabet (1997)
  • Inne Abecadło / A Further Alphabet (1998)
  • Wyprawa w dwudziestolecie / An Excursion through the Twenties and Thirties (1999)
  • To / It (2000)
  • Orfeusz i Eurydyka (2003)
  • O podróżach w czasie / On Time Travel (2004)
  • Wiersze ostatnie / The Last Poems (2006)



See also


  1. "In Memoriam". University of California. Retrieved 2008-03-17. "Miłosz would always place emphasis upon his identity as one of the last citizens of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, a place of competing and overlapping identities. This stance—not Polish enough for some, certainly not Lithuanian to others—would give rise to controversies about him that have not ceased with his death in either country." 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Template:Lt icon "Išėjus Česlovui Milošui, Lietuva neteko dalelės savęs". Mokslo Lietuva (Scientific Lithuania). Retrieved October 16 2007. 
  3. "Czeslaw Milosz, Poet and Nobelist Who Wrote of Modern Cruelties, Dies at 93". Retrieved March 17 2008. 
  4. "CZESLAW MILOSZ 1911-2004". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved March 20 2008. 


  • Striving Towards Being: The Letters of Thomas Merton and Czesław Miłosz, edited by Robert Faggen (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1996)



External links

Encyclopedia Britannica

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