"In Search of a Homeland": The Prose Works of Czeslaw Milosz

Agnieszka Gutthy, Southeastern Louisiana University

One of the issues in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Polish literature is the emergence of ╚migr╚ culture. The history of Polish ╚migr╚ literature is almost two centuries old and includes two big waves: the Great Romantic Emigration of 1831 and the post-World War II emigration. Among Polish writers who emigrated after World War II, a more acute form of loss and exile is experienced by those originating from the northeast border and from Lithuania. For writers like J█zef Mackiewicz or Czeslaw Milosz, the land of childhood ceased to exist; there was simply nowhere to return. Louis Iribarne called Milosz "a man exiled from the Garden and trying, through summoning the power of the Word, to find his way back."

Milosz's prose is a search for both the physical and the spiritual homeland of an Eastern European, conducting him through his native Lithuania, Russia, Poland, France to the United States. In my paper I would like to examine this quest that in The Captive Mind and The Seizure of Power begins by looking for identity in the context of postwar Poland; in The Valley of Issa, mythicizes the country of childhood memories; in the collection of essays, In Search for a Homeland, reflections on Lithuania, France, and America combine the metaphysical search with the effort to accommodate the author's own spiritual heritage within the context of modern western civilization.