Milosz's ABC's

Overview

Memories, dreams and reflections from the Nobel Laureate

The ABC book is a polish genre-a loose form related to a hypertext novel-composed of short, alphabetically arranged entries. In Milosz's conception, the ABC book becomes a sort of autobiographical reference book, combining entries concerning characters from his earlier work with references to some of his memory poems. He also writes of real, historical figures like Camus who were particularly influential during his ...

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Overview

Memories, dreams and reflections from the Nobel Laureate

The ABC book is a polish genre-a loose form related to a hypertext novel-composed of short, alphabetically arranged entries. In Milosz's conception, the ABC book becomes a sort of autobiographical reference book, combining entries concerning characters from his earlier work with references to some of his memory poems. He also writes of real, historical figures like Camus who were particularly influential during his formative years, and of broader topics such as "The City," "Unhappiness," and "Money." Another fascinating entry in Milosz's bold opus, Milosz's ABCs is an engaging tribute to a brilliant mind.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Fascinating and charming—The web woven here, in the wisest and most charming of styles, is intricate indeed."

—Kirkus Reviews

"Lyrically poetic . . . The tone is intimate but the content - which includes politics, history, art, poetry, and religion - is impressively broad and rich."

—Dana Gioia, San Francisco Magazine

"Splendid . . . Milosz's ABC's is a benedictory text, an alphabetical rescue operation, a testimonial to those who have suffered and gone before us, a hymn to the everlasting marvel and mystery of human existence—Milosz [is] arguably the greatest living poet."

—Edward Hirsch, The New York Times Book Review

"Eloquent . . . A remarkable fusion of passion and balance."

—Richard Eder, The New York Times

"The book captures what is perhaps most characteristic and attractive in Milosz's entire literary output. His writing can be simultaneously a protest against the disappearance of people, objects and images from the physical world, and a celebration of time's unstoppable forward motion . . . Few writers in our time can rival Milosz's ability to render justice to the strange spectacle of the world. We should be grateful for the wisdom of his extraordinary life."

—Jaroslaw Anders, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"A remarkable testament to the place of memory in the definition of a conscious self . . . As the two brief entries 'truth' and 'time' eloquently suggest, a life shaped by the terror of political instability and institutionalized brutality relentlessly goes on seeking that order which is the natural desire of every human mind."

—Harold Isbell, Commonweal

Edward Hirsch
It is a source of wonderment and pleasure that at the age of 89, Czeslaw Milosz, arguably the greatest living poet, continues to publish exploratory works of self-definition and commemoration. Milosz's A B C's, expertly translated from the Polish by Madeline G. Levine, remakes the relatively recent Polish genre of the A B C book -- a kind of subgenre of memoir -- so that it becomes a flexible hybrid form, a probing and quirky reference book....In the end, Milosz's A B C's is a benedictory text, an alphabetical rescue operation, a testimonial to those who have suffered and gone before us, a hymn to the everlasting marvel and mystery of human existence.
New York Times Book Review
From The Critics
Milosz has experienced the twentieth century in a profound way, and his poetry and prose deal with life directly and purposefully. This book, inspired by a Polish literary genre called abecadlo, presents a poetic form as old as the ancient Hebrew acrostics. "My time, my twentieth century, weighs on me as a host of voices and the faces of people whom I once knew," writes Milosz, whose extraordinary biography is inextricably connected to the genius of his work. From A to Z, the poet describes the lives of friends, relatives and co-workers who have endured politically motivated psychological torture, mass deportations, concentration camps and summary executions. Their stories reflect the terrible consequences of warped idealism and social determinism. The great poet's observations of the horrors visited on Poland in the 1940s are characterized by wisdom rather than nihilism. Readers who take seriously poetry, history and philosophy should read Milosz's work.
—Stephen Whited

ISBN 0670894869 Collected Stories
Saul Bellow
Viking
464 pages
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"Man has been given to understand/ that he lives only by the grace of those in power./ Let him therefore busy himself sipping coffee, catching butterflies." So muses Polish migr poet and Nobel laureate Milosz in one of his earlier poems, and such might be the principle guiding this most recent collection of his writings. Bits and pieces of memoir are ranged in alphabetical order, making up a curious glossary of a life lived in Poland and the United States and a literary career spanning six decades. Reminiscences of Poland before, during and after WWII occupy much of the volume. Even when Milosz is chronicling his life since he settled permanently in California in 1960, after a period of exile in France, his memories center on friends made in childhood at school in Wilno. Brief character sketches are intermixed with reflections on subjects like Milosz's sense of obligation to the Polish language and Polish literary tradition, his admiration of poets like Walt Whitman and Joseph Brodsky, and, more generally, on themes like curiosity, fame and terror. It is these sections that will engage American readers, who elsewhere are likely to flounder in a sea of names. The fragments of autobiography collected in this edition represent only a selection from the texts of two Polish ABCs, and readers will be grateful for the culling. It is difficult to escape the sense that--like butterflies in a dusty case--the scraps of memory affixed here have lost their living glitter. (Jan.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The Nobel prize winner's thoughts and memories--in ABC format, a popular genre in his native Poland. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374527952
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 1/28/2002
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

Czeslaw Milosz is the winner of the 1978 Neustadt International Prize in Literature and the 1980 Nobel Prize in Literature. Since 1962 he has been a professor, now emeritus, of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley. His most recent publications are Striving Towards Being: The Letters of Czeslaw Milosz and Thomas Merton (FSG, 1997)and Road-side Dog (FSG, 1998). He lives in Berkeley, California and Krakow, Poland.

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