My Century: The Odyssey of a Polish Intellectual
Written by Aleksander Wat
Edited & Translated from the Polish by Richard Lourie
Introduction by Czeslaw Milosz
In My Century the great Polish poet Aleksander Wat provides a spellbinding account of life in Eastern Europe in the midst of the terrible twentieth century. Based on interview with Nobel Prize winner Czeslaw Milosz, My Century describes the artistic, sexual, and political experimentation--in which Wat was a major participant--that followed the end of World War I: an explosion of talent and ideas which, he argues, in some ways helped to open the door to the destruction that the Nazis and Bolsheviks soon visited upon the world. But Wat's book is at heart a story of spiritual struggle and conversion. He tells of his separation during World War II from his wife and young son, of his confinement in the Soviet prison system, of the night when the sound of far-off laughter brought on a vision of "the devil in history." "It was then," Wat writes, "that I began to be a believer."
"As a document of historical witness, My Century is an extraordinary work. But more than that, it is a masterpiece of autobiography. Wat's voice is irresistible, and he tells his story with such rigor and intelligence, such overpowering human warmth, that one is permanently altered by his words. . . It would be impossible for me to overstate my admiration for this book. It is a magnificent achievement, one of the most moving and powerful books I have ever read."
"I couldn't put it down. . . one reads it with an excitement only a great novel can elicit. . . No one has written so well on prison life, to my knowledge, since Dostoevsky."
ALEKSANDER WAT (1900-1967) was born in Warsaw the descendant of a distinguished Jewish family. He attended Warsaw University forming strong ties with the literary avent-garde. Wat edited a variety of influential journals and helped to disseminate the work of Mayakovsky and the futurists in Poland. In 1939 he fled east and was separated from his wife and young son. The family reunited in Soviet controlled Lwow where Wat was placed under arrest. Imprisoned for two years in the Soviet Union, he converted from Judaism to Christianity. In 1942 he joined his exiled family in Kazakhstan. After the war they returned to Poland, where Wat began to write poetry again while serving as editor of the state publishing house, later they emigrated to France. Wat was invited in 1964 to the University of California, Berkeley, where he taped conversations about his life and times with his countryman the poet Czeslaw Milosz. Edited by Milosz, these were published posthumously as My Century.
Publishing House: NYRB Classics, New York 2003
SoftCover book measuring 5.1" x 8"
407 pages, photographs, index
English Language Version
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