Native Realm: A Search for Self-Definition
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The autobiography of the Nobel laureate
Before he emigrated to the United States, Czeslaw Milosz lived through many of the social upheavals that defined the first half of the twentieth century. Here, in this compelling account of his early life, the author sketches his moral and intellectual history from childhood to the early fifties, providing the reader with a glimpse into a way of life that was radically different from anything an American or even a Western European could know.
Using the events of his life as a starting point, Native Realm sets out to explore the consciousness of a writer and a man, examining the possibility of finding glimmers of meaning in the midst of chaos while remaining true to oneself.
In this beautifully written and elegantly translated work, Milosz is at his very best.
play, the principle of repertory theater was universally recognized, and the work of director and actor was regarded as a kind of service to society. Hence Wilno’s large theater (the small one put on mainly operettas) co-operated closely with the schools and the university. The avant-garde quality of its stage direction and set design, its use of antinaturalistic devices, introduced us early to the concept of magic as the essence of the stage. Classical dramas were performed (the actor whom I
that were famous for various reasons. For me, the teachers’ room, where our grades hung in the balance and which we could only glimpse now and then through a half-opened door, has remained the epitome of secrecy. Around the washroom, where the older boys smoked cigarettes and told dirty jokes in artificially deep voices, there are always an air of pleasantly exciting scandal. The laboratory 64 NATIVE REALM lured us with its retorts and the smell of chemicals. This was the domain of old Mr.
been unable to guess then what my next visit to Prague would be like—predestined, waiting within these walls. The passage of time, love affairs, nothing was to slow my chase after that unattainable feast of a pansexual image-devourer. My plane from London was to land at an empty white airport. Snow was falling. It was December, 1950. A huge fellow with the face of a hoodlum, wearing the uniform of the Czech Se curity Police, opened the door to the cabin and asked for pass ports. The waiting
act of will and entered, for the first time in my life, the dining car. There I was greeted by a spectacle for which even now I still try to imagine an explanation. Be side me sat a raw-boned man who looked like an officer in ci vilian clothes. He ordered a steak and absorbedly tied a napkin under his chin; then, with eyes glued to the steak, he rubbed his hands. He did not really eat the contents on his plate but, rather, engulfed them; chomping and grunting to himself, he immediately ordered
history of mankind in categories of decline and punishment—punishment served to close a cycle. From observ ing the “ temps de laideur ricanante” and from his decoding of hidden prophecies, this heir of the Rosicrucians learned that the cycle was closing and that we were entering the Apocalypse of St. John. He foretold the outbreak of war for the near future. It would be the war of the Red Horse and it would begin in Poland, or, to be exact, in the Corridor where the Poles had built the port of