The Land of Ulro Essay - Critical Context

Czesław Miłosz

Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

The Land of Ulro, with its vital, optimistic affirmation of human nature, defines this “catastrophic” poet in a way in which no other of his earlier works does. Curiously enough, for a work which was written in Polish, without any thought of its being translated into English, The Land of Ulro may have the greatest treasure in store for the American reader, who, unfamiliar with the work of Miosz and with Polish literature in general, comes across a wealth of introductory material which can be used to bring both Miosz and the Polish literary tradition onto his private map by way of their affinities with (and departures from) the more familiar authors and traditions discussed in the work.

Nor should the aspect of pure literary criticism, which abounds in The Land of Ulro be overlooked. In this work, Miosz presents the reader with insightful essays concerning both Polish literary giants—such as Witold Gombrowicz and Mickiewicz—as well as penetrating studies of world literature.

Miosz sums up his researches into the metaphysical poetry of Miosz as “the story of a man who discovered a treasure in a field and who kept it buried there after failing to turn its riches to profit.” One may almost say the same thing about the entire volume which is The Land of Ulro. The information to be found in this book, which is so helpful in the understanding of Miosz as a poet, waited perhaps a good half century to be “discovered” by the public. Yet whatever reasons Miosz may have had for keeping the treasure buried, unknown to him, perhaps, the talents did indeed multiply.