Date: Thu, 2011/11/24 (All day)
To celebrate in India the 100th anniversary of the Polish Nobel Laureate
The Embassy of the Republic of Poland in India, Alliance Française de Bangalore and Navakarnataka Publications
Cordially invite you to a literary evening
IN SEARCH OF MOTHERLAND: A TRIBUTE TO MI?OSZ
On 24th November 2011, 7.00 PM at Alliance Française de Bangalore
A loss of harmony with the surrounding space, the inability to feel at home in the world, so oppressive to an expatriate, a refugee, an immigrant, paradoxically integrates him in contemporary society and makes him, if he is an artist, understood by all. Even more, to express the existential situation of modern man, one must live in exile of some sort.
—Czeslaw Milosz (On Exile)
Czeslaw Milosz ranks among the most respected figures in twentieth-century Polish literature, as well as one of the most respected contemporary poets in the world who, through most of their lives were living far away from their motherland and their native languages. However, it was their love and attachment to their motherland which made them keenly observe the happenings and changes in their own countries from a distance, take in the situation and analyze and absorb it completely.
Milosz was deeply rooted in Polish historical and cultural sensibilities. Inspite of living far away from his native country for many decades, all his writings in prose and poetry were created only in his native language, Polish. It is not surprising that in one of his works he states, “language is my measure” – “Bhasha hi mera map hai” to quote him in Hindi. He considers his language to be the measure of his ability, identity, strength, belief and much more that we can comprehend….
Czeslaw Milosz was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980. He was born in Lithuania, where his parents moved temporarily to escape the political upheaval in their native Poland. As an adult, he left Poland due to the oppressive Communist regime that came to power following World War II and has lived in the United States since 1960. Milosz’s poems, novels, essays, and other works are written in his native Polish and translated by the author and others into various other languages. Having lived under the two great totalitarian systems of modern history, National Socialism and Communism, Milosz writes of the past in a tragic, ironic style that nonetheless affirms the value of human life. While the faith of his Roman Catholic upbringing has been severely tested, it has remained intact. Terrence Des Pres, writing in the Nation, stated that “political catastrophe has defined the nature of our . . . [age], and the result—the collision of personal and public realms—has produced a new kind of writer. Czeslaw Milosz is the perfect example. In exile from a world which no longer exists, a witness to the Nazi devastation of Poland and the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe, Milosz deals in his poetry with the central issues of our time: the impact of history upon moral being, the search for ways to survive spiritual ruin in a ruined world.”
Milosz spent much of his childhood in Czarist Russia, where his father worked as a civil engineer. After World War I the family returned to their hometown, which had become a part of the new Polish state, and Milosz attended local Catholic schools. He published his first collection of poems, Poemat o czasie zastyglym (“Poem of the Frozen Time”), at the age of twenty-one. Milosz was associated with the catastrophist school of poets during the 1930s. Catastrophism concerns “the inevitable annihilation of the highest values, especially the values essential to a given cultural system. . . . But it proclaims . . . only the annihilation of certain values, not values in general, and the destruction of a certain historical formation, but not of all mankind,” Aleksander Fiut explained in World Literature Today. The writings of this group of poets ominously foreshadowed World War II.
When the war began in 1939, and Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, Milosz worked with the underground Resistance movement in Warsaw, writing and editing several books published clandestinely during the occupation. One of these books, a collection titled Wiersze(“Poems”), was published under the pseudonym J. Syruc. Following the war, Milosz became a member of the new communist government’s diplomatic service and was stationed in Paris, France, as a cultural attache. In 1951, he left this post and defected to the West.
The Captive Mind explains Milosz’s reasons for defecting and examines the life of the artist under a communist regime. It is, maintained Steve Wasserman in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, a “brilliant and original study of the totalitarian mentality.” Karl Jaspers, in an article for the Saturday Review, described The Captive Mind as “a significant historical document and analysis of the highest order. . . . In astonishing gradations Milosz shows what happens to men subjected simultaneously to constant threat of annihilation and to the promptings of faith in a historical necessity which exerts apparently irresistible force and achieves enormous success. We are presented with a vivid picture of the forms of concealment, of inner transformation, of the sudden bolt to conversion, of the cleavage of man into two.”