Andrzej Franaszek has dedicated ten years of his life to creating an exceptional biography for an exceptional individual.
In this momentous tome, Andrzej Franaszek not only draws a colourful portrayal of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, he also presents a good bit of history of that epoch, with its violent paroxysms: wars, revolutions, totalitarianisms, uprisings, dictatorships, and armed bids for independence. These events formed a background for a life in exile, expounding upon the links between the poet's life and the times he lived in. The poet, who lived to almost one-hundred years of age, experienced a great deal of calamity and joy as well.
It took Andrzej Franaszek over ten years to research for this biography, travelling Poland and Lithuania, France and the USA. The author reached as many people as he could who had something important to share about Miłosz. He investigated the archives of the Beinecke Library and Maisons-Laffitte, examined the voluminous correspondence of the poet. Franaszek, making fantastic use of the gathered material without overwhelming the reader with excessive information. Instead he draws a sensitive portrait of his protagonist with a light touch. The author does not avoid painful and difficult topics, sensitive personal matters or dramatic decisions and choices. On the contrary, he presents them with integrity and empathy, aiding the reader in solving the mysteries of the fascinating life of this great man, exploring the phenomenon of Miłosz's talent and meanders of his personality as well as understanding what shaped the poet's thinking, imagination and poetic sensibility.
The English-version edition, translated by Aleksandra Parker and Michael Parker, was published by Belknap Press. It contains an introduction by the translators, along with maps, historical explanations, and a chronology.
A fragment of the introduction by Maria Janion:
Intellectually, Miłosz walked through all the hells and some paradises of the 20th century. His oeuvre contains the entire universe of our ideas and beliefs. Without Miłosz, the Polish first-hand knowledge on the 20th century would be so impoverished that I don't know whether it would be able to stand on its rachitic feet.
The life of Czesław Miłosz is a chronicle of the previous century which the poet experienced first-hand. From the battlefields of the World War I seen through the eyes of a young boy through the Russian revolution; Poland regaining independence; the social and national struggles of the Second Republic of Poland; the apocalyptic and hellish time of Warsaw under the occupation; Holocaust and clash between two totalitarian systems; life in exile in the world divided by 'the iron curtain'; America in the 1960s and 1970s to the collapse of the Soviet empire and the beginnings of the 21st century.
The poet, who took part in all of these events, thought them over and expressed his experiences in poems, novels and essays. A timid boy, who was too shy to ask for what he wanted in a shop in Vilnius, walked a long way in his ninety-three years, along which he met Einstein and Eliot, Karl Jaspers and Albert Camus, Iosif Brodsky and Susan Sontag, and above all John Paul II...
He combined sensibility, responsiveness to pain, a tormented and scrupulous conscience, a tendency towards depression and despair with liveliness, diligence, physical and spiritual powers, allowing him to survive through misfortunes which he experienced much more than he would admit.
Miłosz's oeuvre surpassed everything that was created in the field of Polish literature over the previous century. He outlived his enemies, of whom he had plenty and whom he would most often magnanimously forgive. He achieved everything and was said to be "the apple of destiny's eye". The poet himself was of a different opinion: "There were many miraculous rescues. Yet, except for them, anyone who knew my life better would never say that I was a lucky man. There were very many tragedies in my life".
Translated by Aleksandra Parker and Michael Parker
"Milosz: A Biography"
Publisher: Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press, April 2017
6.5 x 1.4 x 9.4 inches , 544 pp - hardcover
Source: press materials - Znak Publishing, www.polskieradio.pl