Cover image for To begin where I am : selected essays
To begin where I am : selected essays
Miłosz, Czesław.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Prose works. Selections. English
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, [2001]

Physical Description:
xvi, 462 pages ; 24 cm
Who was I? -- Notes on exile -- Happiness -- Dictionary of wilno streets -- After all -- Miss Anna and Miss Dora -- Journey to the west -- On Oscar Milosz -- The prioress -- Brognart: a story told over a drink -- Alpha the moralist -- Tiger -- Zygmunt Hertz -- Pity -- Letter to Jerzy Andrzejewski -- Speaking of a mammal -- Facing too large an expanse -- Religion and space -- Carmel -- To Robinson Jeffers -- Essay in which the author confesses that he is on the side of man, for lack of anything better -- The importance of Simone Weil -- Shestov, or the purity of despair -- Dostoevsky -- A philosopher -- Saligia -- If only this could be said -- Why religion? -- Remembrance of a certain love -- A semi-private letter about poetry -- Ruins and poetry -- Anus mundi -- Against incomprehensible poetry -- Reflections on T.S. Eliot -- Robert Frost -- On Pasternak soberly -- Notes about Brodsky.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PG7158.M553 A23 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



A comprehensive selection of essays--some never before translated into English--by the Nobel Laureate. To Begin Where I Am brings together a rich sampling of poet Czeslaw Milosz's prose writings. Spanning more than a half century, from an impassioned essay on human nature, wartime atrocities, and their challenge to ethical beliefs, written in 1942 in the form of a letter to his friend Jerzy Andrzejewski, to brief biographical sketches and poetic prose pieces from the late 1990s, this volume presents Milosz the prose writer in all his multiple, beguiling guises. The incisive, sardonic analyst of the seductive power of communism is also the author of tender, elegiac portraits of friends famous and obscure; the witty commentator on Polish complexes writes lyrically of the California landscape. Two great themes predominate in these essays, several of which have never appeared before in English: Milosz's personal struggle to sustain his religious faith, and his unswerving allegiance to a poetry that is "on the side of man."

Author Notes

Czeslaw Milosz is the recipient of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Literature. His most recent publications are Striving Towards Being: The Letters of Thomas Merton and Czeslaw Milosz (FSG, 1997) and Road-side Dog (FSG, 1998). He lives in Berkeley, California.

(Publisher Provided) Czeslaw Milosz was born in Szetejnie, Lithuania on June 30, 1911. In 1934, he received a degree as Master of Law and traveled to Paris on a fellowship from the National Culture Fund. In 1936, he worked as a literary programmer for Radio Wilno, but was dismissed for his leftist views the following year. He then took a job with Polish Radio in Warsaw. During World War II, he was a member of the Polish resistance. He served as a Polish diplomat in the late 1940s, but defected to Paris in 1951. In 1961, he became a lecturer in Polish literature at the University of California at Berkeley and, later, a professor of Slavic languages and literatures.

His works include The Captive Mind, Native Realm, Czeslaw Milosz: The Collected Poems 1931-1987, Bells in Winter, A Year of the Hunter, and Roadside Dog. He received several awards including the Prix Littéraire European from the Swiss Book Guild for The Seizure of Power in 1953, the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980. He has also translated the works of other Polish writers into English, and has co-translated his own works. He died on August 14, 2004.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Poems and essays cover the same emotional and intellectual terrain but with different gaits and rhythms, and Nobel laureate Milosz writes with both mastery and serious philosophical purpose. This invaluable retrospective presents a wealth of his reflective, beautifully wrought prose works, in which he weaves autobiography and portraits of people, famous and otherwise, who have influenced him into graceful and provocative musings on time, history, religion, science, and art. An exquisitely receptive observer of place, Milosz, now in his nineties, remembers his boyhood bliss on his grandparents' Lithuanian farm in "Happiness," the volume's most recent essay. Elsewhere, he conjures up the lost streets of Wilno and his first trip to Western Europe; then, in his most riveting and pivotal narratives, he writes piercingly of America, the country of his long exile. But as brilliantly as he evokes place, it's people who inspire him the most profoundly as he seeks understanding of the horrors of the twentieth century--totalitarianism, genocide, Hiroshima--and the splendor of our persistent desire to "lift ourselves over new thresholds of consciousness." Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

It would be difficult to overstate the brilliance and breadth of vision of this Nobel Prize-winning Polish poet and prose writer. This collection, spanning five decades, demonstrates an uncommon rigor, respect for truth and refusal to bend to intellectual fashion. While Milosz (The Captive Mind, etc.) an exile since 1951 and a professor of Slavic languages and literature at UC Berkeley has the trappings of a traditional European man of letters, he brings a unique modern perspective to topics of longstanding intellectual debate, including belief in God, poetry's social relevance and the limitations of Western liberalism. His adventurous, varied prose style calls upon different literary traditions: sketches, letters, aphorisms and philosophical essays. Underlying Milosz's writing is the constant, pained consciousness of having lived through WWII and the Holocaust, during which time he experienced a spiritual crisis as a Catholic which does not seem fully resolved (his favorite philosophers are the contradictory Simone Weil and Lev Shestov). From his harsh judgment of himself ("to preserve an untarnished image of [one]self is rarely possible") to his meditations on the nature of evil ("purely bestial sadism, naked and plain, occurs much more rarely than motivated sadism, equipped with all the arguments needed to make it into a noble and positive inclination"), Milosz's thoughts stem from the pressure that reality exerts on theory. Even in moments of relative levity ("America... has always suffered from a certain weakness in historical imagination... which is perhaps why in American films both ancient Romans and astronauts from the year 3000 look and act like boys from Kentucky"), a seriousness of purpose predominates. Seven of these pieces are translated into English for the first time, helping to make this indispensable reading. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

As complete a representation of the Nobel prize winner's work as you are likely to find. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introduction My Intention
Part One These Guests of Mine
Who Was I? Notes on Exile Happiness
Dictionary of Wilno Streets After All . . . Miss Anna and Miss Dora
Journey to the West On Oscar Milosz
The Prioress Brognart: A Story Told over a Drink
Alpha the Moralist Tiger Zygmunt Hertz Pity
Part Two On The Side of Man
Letter to Jerzy Andrzejewski Speaking of a Mammal
Facing Too Large an Expanse
Religion and Space Carmel To Robinson Jeffers
Essay in Which the Author Confesses
That He Is on the Side of Man, for Lack of Anything
Better The Importance of Simone Weil Shestov, or the Purity of Despair Dostoevsky
A Philosopher Saligia If Only This Could Be Said Why Religion?
Part Three Against Incomprehensible Poetry
Remembrance of a Certain Love A Semi-Private Letter
About Poetry Ruins and Poetry Anus Mundi
Against Incomprehensible Poetry Reflections on T. S. Eliot Robert Frost
On Pasternak Soberly Notes About Brodsky
Part Four In Constant Amazement
From "Notebook"