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Czeslaw Milosz: Conversations
by Czeslaw Milosz, Cynthia L. Haven (Editor)
University Press of Mississippi, May 2006

Czeslaw Milosz (1911–2004) felt that part of his role as a poet and critic was to bear witness to bloodshed and terror as well as to beauty. He survived the Soviet invasion of his beloved Lithuania, escaped to Nazi-occupied Warsaw where he joined the Socialist resistance, then witnessed the Holocaust and the razing of the Warsaw Ghetto. After persecution and censorship triggered his defection in 1951, he found not relief but the anguish of solitude and obscurity.

In the years of loneliness and labor, Milosz continued writing poems and essays, learning to love his privacy and preoccupations, enjoying the devotion of his students at the University of California, Berkeley. International fame came like lightning when Milosz won the 1980 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Czeslaw Milosz: Conversations, the first volume of interviews with Milosz to appear since 1987, collects pieces from a wide range of sources over twenty-five years and includes an unpublished conversation between Milosz and his friend and fellow Nobel Laureate, poet Joseph Brodsky. This volume acquaints us with a man whose work, life, and thought defy easy characterizations. He was a sensualist with a scholar’s penchant for history, as likely to celebrate Heraclitus as the hooks on a woman’s corset. He was a devout but doubting Catholic, and a thinker tinged with an heretical sensibility.

Cynthia L. Haven is a literary critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, has authored several non-fiction books, and has received over a dozen literary and journalism awards. She also edited Joseph Brodsky: Conversations (University Press of Mississippi, 2003; Adelphi Edizioni, 2005).