NOBEL LECTURE by Czeslaw Milosz


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Thirty years an exile from his native Lithuania, writing his poems in France and the US (but in Polish), bearing quietly undeviating witness to the crippling of the real by ""the other Europe,"" Milosz took the Nobel winner's podium in 1980 Stockholm to talk about a ""quest for reality."" For the modern poet, this quest brings with it a dilemma: ""Reality calls for a name, for words, but it is unbearable, and if it is touched, if it draws very close, the poet's mouth cannot even utter a complaint of Job: all art proves to be nothing compared with action. Yet to embrace reality in such a manner that it is preserved in all its old tangle of good and evil, of despair and hope, is possible only thanks to a distance, only by soaring above it--but this in turn seems a moral treason."" No solution to this fix is easy or even desirable, but Milosz suggests that memory (especially that of the exile) is something of a mediator--but only if that memory remains specific, unsoftening: ""It is possible that there is no other memory than the memory of wounds."" And such memories--one of the essential features of Milosz's whole oeuvre--also connect here with homages to Simone Weil, to Parisian poet Oscar Milosz (a relative), to old Lithuania, and to the traditional bonds of civitas. A brief address--printed in Polish as well as English--but of more real substance than most of the Nobel prize-winner speeches.

Pub Date: Nov. 9th, 1981
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux