Reading Milosz, one understands what it is that earns a Nobel Prize in Literature. As this collection repeatedly illustrates, he communicates the way our wisest, and quintessentially most human members do: seeing through things, into them and beyond them without losing the reality of their particulars. His essays range in theme from travel and poetry to philosophy, politics and intimate personal history -- their poignancy rooted in the tension of spiritual and earthly concerns. This kind of hard-won perception makes itself evident in Milosz's mindful care of predecessors, his gentle sensibility toward the religious and his fearless faith in the necessity of poetic work. ''I am here,'' he writes in the opening essay. ''Those three words contain all that can be said -- you begin with those words and you return to them. Here means on this earth... I was given no other place, no other time, and I touch my desk to defend myself against the feeling that my own body is transient. This is all very fundamental, but, after all, the science of life depends on the gradual discovery of fundamental truths.'' Yet Milosz also understands the limitation of the word, humbly admitting ''I keep quiet as is proper... a man who has learned that the human heart... holds more than speech...'' In short, he earns our trust. As one reader put it: ''These are the sort of essays I want to have read so often that I can no longer distinguish his way of thinking from my own.'' 462 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
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."