It appears reading has taken up most of my blogging time lately. That being the case, I thought this week I’d tell you a bit about those books that are keeping me from writing.
It’s been a while since I invested some time in a great classic novel. I’m only six chapters in, but so far, I love Brontë’s writing, and the whole dark atmosphere of this story. I also love little Jane, even as my heart breaks for her.
“Do you know where the wicked go after death?”
“They go to hell,” was my ready and orthodox answer.
“And what is hell? Can you tell me that?”
“A pit full of fire.”
“And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there for ever?”
“What must you do to avoid it?”
I deliberated a moment; my answer, when it did come, was objectionable: “I must keep in good health, and not die.” [Chapter 4]
Like Seamus Heaney and Gerard Manley Hopkins, Czesław Miłosz is one of those writers that I like to preach about to people. Even before I really began to appreciate poetry, I still read his work, and now that poetry has become a love of mine, I find myself only falling deeper in love with these poems. And why is that? The answer to that question would fill a post on its own, but among other things, I love how much he can say in just a phrase or a few lines. I love the range of his poetry, which discusses everything from war, death, and love to train rides and strawberry jam. Rather along the lines of someone like Chesterton, he receives the world with awe and writes from the conviction that “every day is sacred” (which is not a quote from him, but from this poem by Adam Zagajewski. If you want my opinion on Miłosz, that poem about sums it up). I also love that Miłosz is one of the most truthful poets I’ve ever read, especially in his religious verse. I can’t think of too many poets who are as candid in their handling of sin and doubt as Miłosz is.
Since the poems in this collection are arranged in chronological order, it means that this book is very interesting to read side-by-side with the third book I currently have going….
Originally published in Poland in 2011, this book was edited and translated by Michael and Aleksandra Parker, who published it in the U. S. last month. This is the first time since Abigail Santamaria’s Joy where I’ve read a biography without already knowing a lot about the subject–yes, despite his being one of my favorite poets, I knew only the bare outline of Miłosz’s life going in. Even that is pretty incredible: displaced by war as a child, survived the Nazi occupation of Poland, made a deal with the Soviet devil, risked his career and his life to break that deal, then later settled into relative obscurity in America, only to gain international attention when, in 1980, he won the Nobel Prize. It’s been a fascinating book so far, and Franaszek’s gifts as a writer make it that much better.
So, what have all of you been reading lately? Have you read any of these books, and what did you think? Let me know in the comments.