BEGINNING WITH MY STREETS by Czeslaw Milosz

BEGINNING WITH MY STREETS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Some of these essays were written directly for Polish-speaking readers, and that surely has a part in determining the occasional small-bore specificity here, the lack of background information about East European literature that Nobelist Milosz has been patiently providing and re-providing to Western readers for decades. An examination of Swedenborg's influence on Dostoyevsky is interesting if narrow, as is a for-export appreciation of Dwight Macdonald; memorial tributes are paid to the editor of the important Polish ÉmigrÉ journal Kultura and to the director of a Paris-based Polish publishing house; the title essay is a memory tour of Milosz's native Wilno. But the most intriguing pieces here are the most general ones: a revealing interview; a remarkable and timely analysis of nationalism (oral cultures turning into written ones, and the intelligentsia using literature as a tool of differentiation); a loopy but sly essay about the seven deadly sins; and--distributed in a number of different pieces--testimony of Milosz's thorough disdain for contemporary creativity (against which he asks for reconsideration of poets as different as Robinson Jeffers and Aleksander Wat). Milosz escapes curmudgeon-ism by the sweep of his knowledge, his unexpected if not quite graceful stylistic pirouettes, and his refusal to be a mage.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1992
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: "Farrar, Straus & Giroux"