LikeNative Realm, Czeslaw Milosz's autobiography written thirty years earlier,A Year of the Hunter is a "search for self-definition." A diary of one year in the Nobel laureate's life, 1987-88, it concerns itself as much with his experience of remembering as with the actual events that shape his days. Shuttling between observations of the present and reconstructions of the past, he attempts to answer the unstated question: Given his poet's personality and his historical circumstances, has he managed to live his life decently? From Milosz's thoughts on the Catholic Church and his conversations with Pope John Paul II to his impatience with sixties American radicalism and his reflections on the avant-garde,A Year of the Hunter brims with caustic wit and shrewd observations about people, places, politics, and literature. Milosz also gives us a deeply personal portrait of life in pre-war Poland in which he charts his conflicting feelings about Poland and the Polish people. Lively in tone, impressive in its intellectual breadth,A Year of the Hunter offers a splendid introduction to Milosz for new readers and, for those who know his essays and poetry, the pleasure of watching him master another genre. "This lively journal shows Milosz grappling with his thoughts on evil, death, sex, vanity, music and spirituality." - Publishers Weekly
I found this example to be an admixture, a conscious construction towards a legacy but one still wrought with doubts and misdeed.
Thereâ€™s considerable judgement on display. Mourning for his wife. A quivering acknowledgement of his own destructive nature. There are trips back to Europe and lengthy asides.
There is no quick encapsulation of 20C Polish history. Milosz considers an attempt, if only through his own exceptional experience. I appreciate the reverence for Balzac, the prism of Magic Mountain to gauge the world between the wars; I did steady myself for his harsh words towards de Beauvoir and Brodsky.
I return again to the wonky confessional nature of the tome: regardless of its bent, it penetrates with verve of a poet at work. Early writing from his garden in Northern California, he notes that his childhood was virtually covered with insects, that his dotage thanks to chemical progress is free of such. Perhaps that is but another painful analogy for our age.