Czeslaw Milosz was born in Szetejnie, Lithuania and Poland in 1911. A witness to the devastation of Lithuania and Poland by the Nazi and Stalinist tides, he survived World War II in German-occupied Warsaw with his wife, Janina, publishing in the underground press. After the war he was stationed as a cultural attaché from Poland in New York, Washington, and Paris; he defected to France in 1951. In 1960 he accepted a position at the University of California at Berkeley. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980. He died in Kraków, Poland, in August 2004. Legends of Modernity brings together essays and letters written during the war years 1942-1943. Madeline G. Levine has translated three earlier books by Czeslaw Milosz: Beginning with My Streets: Essays and Recollections (1992), A Year of the Hunter (1994), and Milosz's ABC's (2001), and coedited To Begin Where I Am, a selection of Milosz's essays (2001), all published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. She is Kenan Professor of Slavic Literatures at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.