CZESLAW MILOSZ, winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Literature, was born in Lithuania in 1911. His father, an engineer, moved his family to Russia a few years after Milosz’s birth, and to Poland at the end of World War I. Milosz grew up in Wilno, where he attended Catholic schools. Like many Poles of his generation, he was involved in Marxist-influenced literary and political groups as a college student. He began to write poetry seriously while living in Paris in 1934, and worked clandestinely as a writer and editor for resistance publications during World War II. A member of the Socialist Party, Milosz joined the Polish diplomatic service when the war ended; following the suppression of the coalition government in 1951, however, he broke with the regime and settled in Paris.
Since 1961, Milosz has been professor of Slavic languages and literature at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1978 he was awarded the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and in 1990 he won the Los Angeles Times Robert Kirsch Award. Milosz delivered the prestigious Charles Eliot Norton lecture at Harvard University in 1981 and 1982. He is a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
Milosz’s nonfiction works include The Captive Mind, a book about Communism and intellectuals; Native Realm, an autobiographical history; and Emperor of the Earth: Modes of Eccentric Vision, a collection of writings on Russian and Polish literature. In 1981 Farrar, Straus and Giroux published a bilingual edition of his Nobel Lecture, followed by Visions from San Francisco Bay in 1982.
Milosz’s Selected Poems was published in the United States in 1973. Its success led to additional collections, including Bells in Winter (1978), The Separate Notebooks (1984), Unattainable Earth (1986), and Provinces (1991). Milosz has translated Zbigniew Herbert’s poetry and has edited an anthology entitled Postwar Polish Poetry (1983). His novels include The Issa Valley (1981), The Seizure of Power (1982), and The Land of Ulro (1984), all of which were published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The autobiographical Beginning with My Streets was published by FSG in 1992, and A Year of the Hunter, a diary Milosz kept from 1987–1988, was published in 1994. In 1997, FSG published Striving Towards Being: The Letters of Thomas Merton and Czeslaw Milosz, edited by Robert Faggen. The Issa Valley and The Land of Ulro were reissued in 2000 as the first two installments in a new series of paperback reissues of Czeslaw Milosz works by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.