Facing The River

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Overview

Czeslaw Milosz did not believe he would ever return to the river valley in which he grew up. But in the spring of 1989, exactly fifty years after he left, the new government of independent Lithuania welcomed him back to that magical region of his childhood. Many of the poems in Facing the River record his experiences there, where the river of the Issa Valley symbolizes the river of time as well as the river of mythology, over which one cannot step twice. This is the river Milosz faces while exploring ancient ...

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Overview

Czeslaw Milosz did not believe he would ever return to the river valley in which he grew up. But in the spring of 1989, exactly fifty years after he left, the new government of independent Lithuania welcomed him back to that magical region of his childhood. Many of the poems in Facing the River record his experiences there, where the river of the Issa Valley symbolizes the river of time as well as the river of mythology, over which one cannot step twice. This is the river Milosz faces while exploring ancient themes. He reflects upon the nature of imagination, human experience, good and evil—and celebrates the wonders of life on earth.

In these later poems, the poems of older age, this Nobel laureate takes a long look back at the catastrophic upheavals of the twentieth century; yet despite the soberness of his themes, he writes with the lightness of touch found only in the great masters.

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Editorial Reviews

Joseph Brodsky
I have no hesitation whatsoever in stating that Czeslaw Milosz is one of the greatest poets of our time, perhaps the greatest.
Helen Vendler
The work of Milosz reminds us of how much power poetry gains from bearing within itself an unforced, natural, and longranging memory of past customs; a sense of the strata of ancient and modern history; a wide visual experience; and a knowledge of many languages and literatures.
Library Journal
Add to the classic Bells in Winter (Ecco, 1996. reprint) and Collected Poems (LJ 4/15/88).
Booknews
The river of the title is the river of the Issa Valley in Lithuania, the region of his childhood, to which the Nobel Prize-winning poet returned in 1989 after a 50-year absence. Naturally, the river is also the river of time, and these unsentimental poems are precious meditations on life's wonders and ravages from the perspective of old age. Translated by the author and Robert Haas. (RC) Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780880014540
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/28/1996
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 84
  • Sales rank: 1,029,284
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Czeslaw Milosz was born in Szetejnie, Lithuania, in 1911. He worked with the Polish resistance movement in Warsaw during World War II and was later stationed in Paris and Washington, D.C., as a Polish cultural attaché. He defected to France in 1951, and in 1960 he accepted a position at the University of California, Berkeley. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980, and was a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He died in 2004.

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Read an Excerpt

At a Certain Age

We wanted to confess our sins but there were no takers.
White clouds refused to accept them, and the wind
Was too busy visiting sea after sea.
We did not succeed in interesting the animals.
Dogs, disappointed, expected an order,
A cat, as always immoral, was falling asleep.
A person seemingly very close
Did not care to hear of things long past.
Conversations with friends over vodka or coffee
Ought not be prolonged beyond the first sign of

boredom.
It would be humiliating to pay by the hour
A man with a diploma, just for listening.
Churches. Perhaps churches. But to confess there what?
That we used to see ourselves as handsome and noble
Yet later in our place an ugly toad
Half-opens its thick eyelid
And one sees clearly: "That's me."


Facing the River. Copyright © by Czeslaw Milosz. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Table of Contents

At a Certain Age 3
A Lecture 4
Why 7
Capri 9
Report 13
A Goddess 16
The Manor 17
A Certain Neighborhood 18
A Naiad 18
Who? 19
City of My Youth 20
A Meadow 21
Translating Anna Swir on an Island of the Caribbean 22
To My Daimonion 24
The Wall of a Museum 27
Biography of an Artist 28
The Garden of Earthly Delights: Hell 29
Realism 30
One More Contradiction 31
Woe! 32
Pierson College 33
Sarajevo 34
To Allen Ginsberg 36
A Human Fly 39
House in Krasnogruda 40
A Polka-Dot Dress 41
Plato's Dialogues 43
Undressing Justine 44
Retired 49
Wanda 51
To Mrs. Professor in Defense of My Cat's Honor and Not Only 55
You Whose Name 57
This World 58
Happenings Elsewhere 59
A Hall 61
After Enduring 62
Body 63
In Szetejnie 64
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