Cover: Milosz: A Biography, from Harvard University PressCover: Milosz in HARDCOVER


A Biography

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$35.00 • £30.00 • €31.50

ISBN 9780674495043

Publication: April 2017


544 pages

6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches

41 halftones, 3 maps

Belknap Press


[A] magnificent biography… Miłosz: A Biography will reframe our picture of the poet in a way that will last—devastatingly human, flawed, ferociously strong-willed, living with a daemon that never left him, even into his nineties.—Cynthia Haven, Times Literary Supplement

[A] richly detailed, dramatic, and melancholy book.—Adam Kirch, New Yorker

An enthralling account of the poet’s work as well as the events he endured to create it… Franaszek’s meticulously researched account of the two decades bookending Milosz’s 1951 defection to the West is particularly revelatory.—Micah Mattix, Wall Street Journal

Now at last we have a biography of Miłosz… Andrzej Franaszek’s book provides an admirably clear account of Miłosz’s long and troubled life… Franaszek captures this life in all its complexity and darkness.—David Herman, New Statesman

[An] excellent full-length biography… Franaszek’s work moves gracefully between the events in Milosz’s life and his obsessive writing about it. Along with historical maps, its chronology enables us to pinpoint the fateful intersection between Milosz’s experience and historic events, showing a poet who was determined both to embody and to transcend his own historical circumstances, who longed to liberate himself from the times that entangled him… One comes away from this biography with a fuller sense of Milosz’s struggles and his complexity.—Edward Hirsch, New Republic

Franaszek, with exquisite balance, blends Milosz’s life story with his intellectual and aesthetic journey, enriching both with perfectly chosen fragments from his poetry and other writings… In Milosz’s life, so well illustrated by Franaszek, poetry’s confrontation with history converged with the poet’s engagement, sometimes mystical, with humankind’s most basic values.—Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs

An immersive narrative, one that lends Milosz’s poems a new depth of perspective… This scholarly portrait of a poet who was both conscientious witness and child-like mystic has been skillfully rendered for English readers… Above all, it is a book that brings history down to a human scale.—Jeremy Noel-Tod, Sunday Times

Franaszek’s intelligent and comprehensive biography should be read in conjunction with Milosz’s New and Collected Poems: 1931–2001… Together they provide a detailed and at times startling portrait, not only of one of the most fascinating and significant poets of the past hundred years, but of what it was like to be alive, curious, politically engaged and spiritually conflicted in the 20th century.—Troy Jollimore, Washington Post

It took Franaszek ten years to compose this life of Milosz, and Aleksandra and Michael Parker another six to translate it. The result is a classic of the genre: a biography based on interviews and exhaustive documentary research. It is tolerant, perceptive, beautifully written and utterly objective. It is also an effective critical study, containing generous excerpts of Milosz’s writing that make it almost an anthology of his poetry and essays… Milosz’s poetry is, on its own, sufficient inducement to learn Polish, and so is this magnificent and, on the whole, sensitively translated biography of a very great poet.—Donald Rayfield, Literary Review

Impeccably researched… Makes for highly compelling reading.—Graham Hillard, National Review

In a time of great distress worldwide over race, religion, migration, war—and fake news—a truth-teller’s voice should be re-heard.—Sudipta Datta, The Hindu

The story it tells, with sympathy and perception, is of great interest.—Lucy Beckett, The Tablet

Czeslaw Milosz was one of the great poets of the twentieth century. He lived through many of its terrors, its spiritual agonies, and the fierce intellectual combat about its meaning, and there is something heroic about the intensity of his desire to name what he saw and make sense of it. Andrzej Franaszek has mastered Milosz’s wide-ranging poetry and prose and deployed them to create a vivid, richly textured portrait of the man, his art and his era. For anyone who wants to understand Milosz’s work, perhaps for anyone who wants to understand the European twentieth century and its terrible violence, this is an essential book and it is a spellbinding read.—Robert Hass

Franaszek’s outstanding biography of Czeslaw Milosz narrates one of the great lives of the twentieth century, and does not shy away from recounting the more private side of the poet’s loves, moods, victories, and defeats. Milosz was an artist who was also a political thinker, who stood in the center of the ideological debates of his time, who was an incredibly industrious writer and on top of all this had a sublime gift for poetry. One of the finest literary critics of his generation in Poland, Franaszek is well suited to his subject. A triumph.—Adam Zagajewski


  • Winner, 2011 Kościelski Award, Kościelski Foundation
  • Finalist, 2011 Nike Literary Award, Gazeta Wyborcza
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