Form and Content
Perhaps the most well known contemporary Polish poet, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980, Czesaw Miosz never restricted himself solely to the composition of verse, although this prolific man of letters considers poetry as his true vocation. Although many critics consider his early work, published in the 1930’s and 1940’s, such as the volumes Trzy zimy (1936; three winters) and Ocalenie (1945; rescue), to be his best, Miosz continues to exert a powerful influence on poets both in Poland and abroad. A capable translator of contemporary verse, Miosz’s position as professor of Slavic literatures at the University of California, Berkeley, has had beneficial results for the propagation of modern Polish poetry in the Anglo-Saxon nations.
After five years in the diplomatic service of the Polish People’s Republic, Miosz decided on political exile away from his homeland. Residing first in France, and finally in the United States, he composed the best-known and most influential volumes of his belles lettres during this period.
The Land of Ulro, as a journal-like volume of reflective essays, springs from the same belletristic tradition as Zniewolony umsyl (1953; The Captive Mind, 1953) and Rodzinna Europa (1958; Native Realm: A Search for Self-Definition, 1968). Nevertheless, there is one important difference between these volumes and The Land of Ulro. While the two former works were written expressly with the Western reader in mind, Miosz considers The Land of Ulro his one “maverick” work which, as he confides to Ewa Czarnecka in Podrozny swiata: Rozmowy z Czesawem Mioszem (1983; Conversations with Czesaw Miosz, 1987), he wrote for himself, “without...
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