Native Realm: A Search for Self-Definition

Native Realm: A Search for Self-Definition

Czeslaw Milosz

Language: English

Pages: 320

ISBN: 0374528306

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The autobiography of the Nobel laureate

Before he emigrated to the United States, Czeslaw Milosz lived through many of the social upheavals that defined the first half of the twentieth century. Here, in this compelling account of his early life, the author sketches his moral and intellectual history from childhood to the early fifties, providing the reader with a glimpse into a way of life that was radically different from anything an American or even a Western European could know.

Using the events of his life as a starting point, Native Realm sets out to explore the consciousness of a writer and a man, examining the possibility of finding glimmers of meaning in the midst of chaos while remaining true to oneself.

In this beautifully written and elegantly translated work, Milosz is at his very best.

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property holders (the way my uncles and aunts lived never made me envious, and they were still landowners), a certain in­ competence in practical affairs, a contempt for “ elbowing one’s way up” (because social standing clearly did not depend on wealth), and, finally, the widespread economic difficulties after the First World War, all spelled one thing. As a schoolboy I wore shirts and suits of coarse homespun because it was cheaper. Every day for weeks on end, I pressed my nose against the

others. But involuntarily I would choose details that suit a preconception: that is, I would reject what seems to me atypical. Without the controls of reality to inhibit me, I would be without a INTRODUCTION 5 ballast, like a balloon. And, in spite of everything, a ballast is useful. So it is better for me to stick to what is mine and to work only with the material I have experienced firsthand. “A diary: that part of our life we can talk about without blushing.” Ambrose Bierce’s aphorism

speaking prose. They condemned the whole ideology of Nazism, but at the same time refused to admit Jews into their forest units; this seemed to them quite natural. If any of them are alive today, they would doubtless be astonished to hear them­ selves accused of racial discrimination. A country or a state should endure longer than an individual. A t least this seems to be in keeping with the order of things. Today, however, one is constantly running across survivors of various Atlantises. Their

corpses lying in the fields that winter, teeth glistening, inspired neither triumph nor regret. Indifferent as stones, they were part of the spectacle of punished pride; their belt buckles with the inscription Gott mtt Uns, now trampled into the snow, I passed by in ironic meditation. And so one of those now stood before us. Behind him he had left tidy houses, bathrooms, Christmas trees with colored ornaments, vineyards cultivated for generations, and the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Tom from

discussion) opens with a sacramental formula in Cyrillic, then switches to Polish, only to return to Cyrillic at the end. It is finished off by the signatures of the two parties and their witnesses in Polish; that is, in the Latin alpha­ bet. We can conclude from this that Polish was already an every­ day language not only for my ancestor, but also for other settlers or families of local stock. As to the place where the contract was drawn up, it is still the same microcosm on the Niewiaza River,

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