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Legends of Modernity

Essays and Letters from Occupied Poland, 1942-1943

Czeslaw Milosz; Translated from the Polish by Madeline G. Levine; Introduction by Jaroslaw Anders

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Legends of Modernity, now available in English for the first time, brings together some of Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz's early essays and letters, composed in German-occupied Warsaw during the winter of 1942-1943.

As relevant today as when they were written, the essays collected in this volume record the young Milosz's attempt to answer the question, "Why did the European spirit succumb to such a devastating fiasco?" Half a century later, when Legends of Modernity saw first publication in Poland, Milosz said, "If everything inside you is agitation, hatred, and despair, write measured, perfectly calm sentences." That concept is applied in these essays to an extended analysis of what Milosz sees as the inevitable consequences of specific notions as represented in the writings of Defoe, Stendhal, Balzac, William James, Gide, and Stanislaw Ignacy Witiewicz, among others. While the essays here reflect a "perfect calm," the accompanying contemporaneous exchange of letters between Milosz and Jerzy Andrzejewski expresses the raw feelings of "agitation, hatred, and despair" as experiences by these two close friends struggling to understand the proximate causes of this debacle of Western civilization, and the relevance, if any, of the teachings of the Catholic Church.

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Praise for Legends of Modernity

Praise for Czeslaw Milosz:

To Begin Where I Am

"A giant elusive in our midst."--John Updike, The New Yorker

"Extraordinary...These 400 pages or so document the development, over seven decades, of a great mind."--The Economist

"To Begin Where I Am bears witness to Milosz's lifetime of toil in the fields of memory, faith, and art."--Adam Kirsch, Bookforum

Milosz's ABC's

"Splendid...Milosz's ABC's is a benedictory text, an alphabetical rescue operation, a testimonial to those who have suffered and gone before us, a hymn to the everlasting marvel and mystery of human existence...Milosz [is] arguably the greatest living poet." --Edward Hirsch, The New York Times Book Review

"Eloquent...A remarkable fusion of passion and balance." --Richard Eder, The New York Times

"Few writers in our time can rival Milosz's ability to render justice to the strange spectacle of the world. We should be grateful for the wisdom of his extraordinary life."--Jaroslaw Anders, Los Angeles Times Book Review

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Czeslaw Milosz; Translated from the Polish by Madeline G. Levine; Introduction by Jaroslaw Anders

  • Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004) was the winner of the 1978 Neustadt International Prize for Literature and the 1980 Nobel Prize in Literature. His last book was To Begin Where I Am (FSG, 2001). He is the author of numerous works, many of which have been translated into English, including Beginning with My Streets (FSG, 1992), The Year of the Hunter (FSG, 1994), Road-side Dog (FSG, 1998) Milosz's ABC's (FSG, 2001) and To Begin Where I Am (FSG, 2001).
  • Czeslaw Milosz © Jerry Bauer
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Available Formats and Book Details

Legends of Modernity

Essays and Letters from Occupied Poland, 1942-1943

Czeslaw Milosz; Translated from the Polish by Madeline G. Levine; Introduction by Jaroslaw Anders

  • Trade Paperback

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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