My Century (New York Review Books Classics)
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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 interviews 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."
and knock. There’ll be a man, or more likely a woman there. Give your wife’s and son’s personal data, and in fifteen minutes you’ll have exact information about where they are.” I said, “Have you been there?” “No, I haven’t.” And so when that officer asked me where I wanted to go, I said Alma-Ata. His answer was, “Out of the question. That’s the capital; you don’t have the right to go there.” Then, remembering the map, I chose Ushtob, which was further south. “Well, all right, you can go to
that by then you had already written Lucifer Unemployed. That’s an incredibly paradoxical, ironic book. A mind playing with all the possibilities. And besides, that book is like your poetry, that poetry that was so highly valued by the younger generation in Poland in the period after October 1956. For that is a mind incredibly perverse, playful, paradoxical, perfectly suited to people who had experienced a good deal and who after 1956 had achieved a certain freedom, at least to talk and to write.
Skuza on the other, the Broniewskis a few places from him, and me at the opposite end of the table facing him. There was so much talk I couldn’t hear a thing. At one point there was an unpleasant exchange of words between the Soviet and Władek Broniewski. I could see Broniewski clenching his teeth, talking through his teeth. Now their conversation had started to turn nasty, really nasty. I could see Skuza lean in front of the Soviet and say something to the actress. And the Soviet slapped
in the Donbas. On the day before he was supposed to leave, the NKVD came and took him. And they accused poor Majtełes of being in contact with the head of the Gestapo. What assignments has the head of the Gestapo given you? He was utterly deranged by those interrogations. He had no idea what was going on. He was one of those who thought that it was right to put the Trotskyites on trial—traitors, they sold out to Japan. But then all of a sudden it’s he who sold out the fatherland of the
that cell with the brotherhood we had in Zamarstynów? The spreading maple tree that had so delighted and purified me, the spaciousness of the cell, the daily walks, the hopes, the new hopes—all those things lost their charm, and I longed for the piercing stench and the packed, lice-ridden cell at Zamarstynów. Their story was simple. They’d been picked up right after the Red Army had arrived and then had been subjected to a unique form of torture: for a year they’d been shifted from one prison to