Fortnightly logo

The Mind in Captivity: Czeslaw Milosz and Modernity
LUNCH 11:45 a.m., LECTURE 12:15 p.m.

Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004) was a poet whose work was a window through which to view the 20th century: the struggle of democracy and totalitarianism, human rights and genocide, faith and science, being and nothingness. Born in Lithuania, writing in Polish, and eventually living and teaching for many years in the United States at Berkeley, Milosz became an embodiment of the postmodern condition of exile. In addition to his poetry, Milosz's The Captive Mind (1953) remains one of the classic books on the dangers of the lures of totalitarian thought. And he also wrote Native Realm: A Search for Self-Definition (1959) about the spiritual phenomenon of exile faced by many in modern Europe.

Professor Joanna Zach, one of this year's Podlich Distinguished Fellows, knew and worked with Milosz, and has published widely on his work. Her ongoing project is "Mind in Captivity and Exile: Czeslaw Milosz and European Modernity" and follows her first book on Milosz's Search for Self (2002), and her numerous articles have focused on the theme of exile and the role of former exiles in the New Europe. Since 2000 Professor Zach has been a member of the Helsinki Forum, an independent cultural project to foster Pan-European critical debate that brings together writers, philosophers, historians, and social scientists from all parts of Europe.

Professor Zach is a graduate of the Jagiellonian University in Cracow. Since then, she has taught at the Institute for Polish Literary Studies. She has also taught at St. Anne's College in Oxford and at Harvard University as Research Fellow.