Czeslaw Milosz: The Independent Institute

The Power of Independent Thinking

Czeslaw Milosz
Czeslaw Milosz

Born in Lithuania, Czesław Miłosz (1911–2004) was a Polish poet, prose writer, translator and diplomat and became a U.S. citizen in 1970. He served as Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley, and his nonfiction book, The Captive Mind (1953), is a classic of anti-Stalinism.

He was the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Prix Littéraire Européen (European Literary Prize), Medal of the Righteous Among the Nations, and Neustadt International Prize for Literature. In 1999 he was named a Puterbaugh Fellow.

Raised Catholic in rural Lithuania, Miłosz came to adopt, as he put it, a "scientific, atheistic position mostly", although he was later to return to the Catholic faith. He spent World War II in Warsaw, under Nazi Germany's "General Government," and was active in the work of Organizacja Socjalistyczno-Niepodległościowa "Wolność" ("The 'Freedom' Socialist Pro-Independence Organisation"), helping Polish Jews. After the war, Miłosz served as cultural attaché of the newly formed People's Republic of Poland in Paris and Washington D.C. In 1951, he defected and obtained political asylum in France.

Among his many books are The Captive Mind, The Seizure of Power, Native Realm: A Search for Self-Definition and Visions from San Francisco Bay, The Witness of Poetry, The Land of Ulro, Unattainable Earth, Selected Poems, Bells in Winter, The Separate Notebooks, Provinces: Poems, 1987-1991, Beginning with My Streets: Essays and Recollections, Facing the River: New Poems, and To Begin Where I Am: Selected Essays.