Czesław Milosz (June 30, 1911 – August 14, 2004) was a Polish poet, prose writer and translator of Lithuanian origin.
His World War II-era sequence The World is a collection of 20 “naive” poems. After serving as a cultural attaché for the Republic of Poland (1945–1951), he defected to the West in 1951, and his nonfiction book The Captive Mind (1953) is a classic of anti-Stalinism.
From 1961 to 1998 he was a professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley. Miłosz later became an American citizenand was awarded the 1978 Neustadt International Prize for Literature and the 1980 Nobel Prize in Literature.
My Lord, I loved strawberry jam
And the dark sweetness of a woman’s body.
Also well-chilled vodka, herring in olive oil,
Scents, of cinnamon, of cloves.
So what kind of prophet am I? Why should the spirit
Have visited such a man? Many others
Were justly called, and trustworthy.
Who would have trusted me? For they saw
How I empty glasses, throw myself on food,
And glance greedily at the waitress’s neck.
Flawed and aware of it. Desiring greatness,
Able to recognise greatness wherever it is,
And yet not quite, only in part, clairvoyant,
I knew what was left for smaller men like me:
A feast of brief hopes, a rally of the proud,
A tournament of hunchbacks, literature.