Read To Begin Where I Am: Selected Essays by Czesław Miłosz Bogdana Carpenter Madeline G. Levine Online


A comprehensive selection of essays--some never before translated into English--by the Nobel Laureate.To Begin Where I Am brings together a rich sampling of poet Czeslaw Milosz's prose writings. Spanning more than a half century, from an impassioned essay on human nature, wartime atrocities, and their challenge to ethical beliefs, written in 1942 in the form of a letter toA comprehensive selection of essays--some never before translated into English--by the Nobel Laureate.To Begin Where I Am brings together a rich sampling of poet Czeslaw Milosz's prose writings. Spanning more than a half century, from an impassioned essay on human nature, wartime atrocities, and their challenge to ethical beliefs, written in 1942 in the form of a letter to his friend Jerzy Andrzejewski, to brief biographical sketches and poetic prose pieces from the late 1990s, this volume presents Milosz the prose writer in all his multiple, beguiling guises. The incisive, sardonic analyst of the seductive power of communism is also the author of tender, elegiac portraits of friends famous and obscure; the witty commentator on Polish complexes writes lyrically of the California landscape. Two great themes predominate in these essays, several of which have never appeared before in English: Milosz's personal struggle to sustain his religious faith, and his unswerving allegiance to a poetry that is "on the side of man."...

Title : To Begin Where I Am: Selected Essays
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ISBN : 9780374528591
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 480 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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To Begin Where I Am: Selected Essays Reviews

  • Dhanaraj Rajan
    2019-01-15 14:45

    First Impression:- It is an important document that analyses in detail why so much cruelties were possible during the World War I, Russian Revolution, French Revolution and World War II.Some Prerequisites:- Some basic knowledge about the philosophical concepts of Human Nature, Existentialism, Marxism, Renaissance, Hegel, F. Nietzsche. It is OBLIGATORY.- A basic knowledge about the Polish History, Polish Literature and some concepts of Literary Criticism. It is OPTIONAL. - Patience of a good reader who is willing to look into the direction that the author points to with his dense language.About the Book:It is a collection of C. Milosz' essays. Not the complete collection. But a collection of some selected essays. The book is divided into three parts according to the major themes. The first part can be described as his autobiographical/personal essays in which he describes his own personal impressions of his childhood or his own portrayal of his own friends. THIS CAN BE EASILY READ BY ANYONE.A quote:In the ninth decade of my life, the feeling which rises in me is pity, useless. A multitude, an immense number of faces, fates of particular beings, and a sort of merging with them from inside, but at the same time my awareness that I will not find anymore the means to offer a home in my poems to these guests of mine, for it is too late. I think also that, could I start anew, every poem of mine would have been a biography or a portrait of a particular person, or, in fact, a lament over his or her destiny.The second part is about the analysis of the Society. Here the analysis of society means the society that was shaping up to the atrocities of the World War II. It is in this section he analyses the philosophical trends that shaped up the mind of the people and thus made the cruelties easily possible. The OBLIGATORY prerequisite is a must to understand everything C. Milosz says in this section.This is a very long quote. But I am willing to give it in the exact way C. Milosz had given it. It looks like a summery of his analysis but it was done in a moment of anger. This quote is taken from the essay which was written in 1942/43 (the War years). Later he developed them in an intellectual way giving less vent to emotions.The quote: Here we touch upon the fundamental argument that has been going on for centuries in the bosom of Western civilization between the pessimistic and optimistic conceptions of man. Christianity has not looked with confidence upon man's innate capacity to distinguish between good and evil. The virtue of the Stoics, which existed without divine assistance, sinned in Christianity's view by an excess of pride. Human beings' innate inclinations, if not illuminated by the light of grace, could lead, in the opinion of the Church, solely to sin, blindness, and error. In addition, the Western Church looked with the certain amount of disbelief upon the earning of that grace in isolation, upon the settling of accounts between God and a human soul within the privacy conferred by four walls. ECCLESIA was to be the intermediary, the dispenser of grace by means of the sacraments created for that purpose. And although human reason was not actually surrounded with contempt, reason had always to follow the path of God's law; reason--to use the language of the Church doctors--had to be illuminated by the sun of supernatural knowledge. This lack of confidence in man's possession of common sense, this reliance not on the average person's intuition but on the opinion of ECCLESIAE MILITANTIS, exresses a pessimistic view of human nature as marred by original sin and incapable of distinguishing between good and evil without resorting to extraordinary means. The Renaissance and Reformation were acts of faith in autonomous morality, in the grain of truth within each person; they applauded natural reason. The bonds of the Church organization and the assistance of the sacraments were unnecessary since each human being possesses a voice which dictates unerringly what he should do and what he should not do. Grace and damnation became a mystery of the human heart, for which no priest can offer relief nor any encyclical simplify the path. That was the germ of faith in man as the judge of his own actions; that is how man grows to his colossal proportions: master of his own destiny, answering for it only and exclusively to God. And then along comes that optimist Rousseau, reared in the Protestant spirit, and he proclaims man's natural goodness, paints in the most exuberant colors all the innate drives of the human animal, accusing civilization of perverting them. Next comes the optimist and Protestant Nietzsche, summoning man to total liberation from the chains of "slave morality," inciting to a transformation of civilization in the spirit of power and health, but not truth, and pronouncing the slogan "Let truth die, let life triumph!" (And so it did, poor, mad philologist.) Nietzsche is seconded by the Protestant and optimist Gide, his ardent admirer. And then these new men come along, these ultra-moderns, these worshippers of the magnificent beast in man, whom we know so well. I have a book by a young Nazi poet, presented to me by the author in 1935. I pick it up and read the dedication: "AU DESSUS DE LA LOI LE CREATEUR A POSE LE VIE."["The Creator placed life above law"]. Yes, we know it; that's the way it is. life is superior to law, life fashons and creates laws for its own purposes, life breaks laws when it needs to, and life is man--magnificent, not answerable to any court of law, free, deriving from himself the rules governing his conduct. Later he also analyses the Communist regime in Poland and the atrocities done in the name of State. Here he states that the place of someone Divine is taken over by the State and State is as usual the creation of a human mind. When human beings take the place of God they fear no one, and they are sure that they are in the right whatever they do.The third part is about his treatise on Poetics - It is his literary criticism. His ideas of a writer, a poet emerge in this section. Moreover he expresses his opinions by analysing some important literary figures such as T. S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Pasternak, Brodsky, etc. His analysis of these poets are very different and very much revealing.Final Note:- If you are new to C. Milosz, I would ask you to try out his poems first. They are relatively simple and direct. - And after reading his poetry, if you are directed to his prose writings (like I did), you might as well find him very valuable. My only advise would be to be armed with some philosophical concepts. After all, it is Thought that decides a Man in every epoch. So Milosz is right in searching for the reason of human monstrosity of the 20th century in the thought patterns that shaped human beings of the 20th century. Only that at the end we find the truth very bleak for the situation has not yet undergone a change.

  • Brandon
    2019-01-05 14:36

    I read this over a weekend camping trip. I ignored people for long stretches of time because I was simply too lost in thought.

  • Robin Friedman
    2019-01-03 13:31

    A Poet's Religious HumanismCzeslaw Milosz is a renowned writer of both poetry and prose. He received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1980. In his long life, he has seen and written about many of the events of the Twentieth Century, including the Russian Revolution, the Holocaust, the Warsaw Uprising, and the rise and fall of communism. He served as a diplomat from Poland to the United States following WWII. Among his books is an incisive critique of communism titled "The Captive Mind"."To begin where I am" is a selection of Milosz's essays published between 1942 and 1998, some written initially in English, but most written in Polish. The essays are wide-ranging in theme and capture a great deal of the scope of Milosz's passions. The good introduction to the book by Bogdana Carpenter and Madeline Levine point out that Milosz "has centered his writings on a few fundamental philosophical questions: the meaning of history; the existence of evil and suffering; the transience of all life; the ascendance of a scientific worldview and the decline of the religious imagination." The essays are well-arranged into four main sections.The first group of essays titled "These Guests of Mine" is primarily historical and descriptive in character. I enjoyed particularly Milosz's description of Wilno(Vilna) in his "Dictionary of Wilno Streets."For me the heart of the book is in the second and third parts, titled "On the Side of Man" and "Against Incomprehensible Poetry." We learn a great deal about a writer by his discussions of those who have influenced him. In this book, Miloscz's essays on the American poet Robinson Jeffers, on the Russian philosopher Lev Shestov, and on the French theological thinker Simone Weil are highly thoughtful. They reveal a writer both struggling for a commitment to religion, to Catholicism in particular, in the face of a scientific and material worldview which he finds inconsistent with it, and a writer committed to humanism, to the best in man and culture. They are an inspiring and difficult set of commitments, and Milosz discusses them eloquently.In Part 3 of the book, the centerpiece is the title essay "Against Incomprehensible Poetry". In this essay, Milosz develops insights from W.H. Auden and makes them his own. Auden had said "there is only one thing that all poetry must do, it must praise all it can for being and for happening." (p.381). This insight becomes the basis of a critique of much obscurantism in modern poetry. We are privileged to hear, in the book, a discussion of the continuing value of poetry and informed discussion of many poets worth knowing, from Whitman, Blake,and Jeffers to many of Milosz's Polish contemporaries. These latter writers are unknown to me, but Milosz makes one wish for them as companions through his discussions.The fourth part of the book. "In Constant Amazement", is brief and consists of a collection of aphorisms. The aphorism I found most striking discusses the nature of human sexuality. It begins: "Men and women carry within their imagination an image of themselves and of others as sexual beings and often that is the only thing that humanizes them." (p. 436)This book helped me with my own thinking and reflection. I hope it will help you with yours as well.Robin Friedman

  • Tess
    2019-01-07 11:57

    I know that some folks find Milosz a little bit with one foot in the 19th century but I really love thatthis has fostered his philosophical outlook, his ideas about good and evil (very Polish in that it's an old culture influenced heavily by fairly old religious practices -- Catholocism and Judaism)and his morality. I am currently watching the Decalogue by Kieslowski and I think they would have had much to talk about. What's really wonderful about this book are the short essays about life, about people, and those that ask the question, "why write"? -- to what end. I just read a great article in the American Poetry Review, an interview with Jack Gilbert, who feels American (u.s.) Poetry suffers from people not knowing why they write anymore -- careerism, money, fame, etc. these things get in the way of poetry that matters, poetry that gives us something we need... We've lost something. I am not sure if I accept this 100% but if I do, then I need to really change my life.

  • Megan
    2018-12-27 11:53

    So far mostly about being a writer in exile (depressing) or about people/places in Poland (mildly incomprehensible to me). Some moments of startling (is that word overused in reviews?) depth, interest, insight, beauty: particularly his essays about a place he was familiar with in his childhood, and traveling with his friends by canoe through Europe.

  • Megan Abbatelli
    2019-01-10 13:44

    I was a little put off by the book at first. Once I started I couldn't stop until it was finished. The essays in here are wonderfully written. It keeps you interested. Very good read.

  • Donna Carpenter
    2019-01-20 12:33

    I can't really rate this book as I don't have sufficient knowledge to fully grasp many of the essays. The translation seemed confusing at times, adding to my difficulties completing this book. I should have started out reading just a few essays at a time, because once I started reading that way, I got more out of it.

  • Janessa
    2018-12-28 13:55

    looking forward to reading this one. I recently skimmed through it at a book store but didn't end up buying it. I bought a book of his poems instead. I figured I should start with that before jumping into any personal essays or memoirs. I thought it better to get to know him as a poet first.

  • Alison
    2018-12-26 13:57

    I just could not get into these essays.That said, his poetry (at least in translation) is wonderful. I'm primarily familiar with what's in "The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry."

  • Andrew Boyle
    2019-01-04 16:40

    Very moving and mature collection of essays. Milosz's honesty is perhaps his greatest feat.

  • Bill
    2018-12-30 17:00

    Milosz is just so good. Reading this book is like tasting a really yummy dish.

  • Kathryn
    2018-12-31 15:52

    I just love Milosz.

  • Corrie
    2019-01-05 16:36