More praise: “Miłosz’s deeply fertile relationship with the United States, and the landscape and culture of California in particular, has not been fully appreciated.”

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From J. Elliot’s August substack newsletter: an excellent paragraph of praise for Czesław Miłosz: A California Life:

Cynthia L. HavenCzesław Miłosz: A California Life. Having already read Andrzej Franaszek’s excellent Miłosz biography, the broad outlines of the poet’s time at U.C. Berkeley—where he lived for four decades before returning to Poland in his final years—were familiar to me. But Haven argues, persuasively, that Miłosz’s conflicted but deeply fertile relationship with the United States, and the landscape and culture of California in particular, has not been fully appreciated. There, he saw his original naive view of the American continent as a realm of pure natura, in contrast with the Sisyphean nightmare of Europe trapped in History, slowly unravel as he grappled with his adopted home’s complexities and contradictions. Seemingly providentially, the Californian anti-humanist poet Robinson Jeffers appeared then as a near-perfect interlocutor and foil for Miłosz’s particular fixations: his constant wrestling with the source of evil in the world and in himself; his alternating worship of and suspicion of Nature; his ambivalence over the redeemability of humanity; his hunger to locate a synthesis of change and eternity in art; and his exile from his native tongue and the political struggles of his homeland, which all at once isolated him, filled him with resentment and shame, challenged and deepened his spirituality, and ultimately elevated his work to the world stage.


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