Czeslaw Milosz is widely considered one of the greatest poets of the 20th century.
He was born June 30, 1911 in Seteiniai, Lithuania, as a son of Aleksander Milosz, a civil engineer, and Weronika, née Kunat. He made his high-school and university studies in Wilno, then belonging to Poland. A co-founder of a literary group "Zagary", he made his literary début in 1930, published in the 1930s two volumes of poetry and worked for the Polish Radio. Most of the war time he spent in Warsaw working there for the underground presses.
Milosz emphasized his identity with the multi-ethnic Grand Duchy of Lithuania, a stance that led to ongoing controversies; he refused to categorically identify himself as either a Pole or a Lithuanian. He once said of himself: "I am a Lithuanian to whom it was not given to be a Lithuanian."[Milosz was fluent in Polish, Lithuanian, Russian, English and French.
In the diplomatic service of the People's Poland since 1945, he broke with the government in 1951 and settled in France where he wrote several books in prose. In 1953 he received Prix Littéraire Européen.
In 1960, invited by the University of California, he moved to Berkeley where he has been, since 1961, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures.
Presented with an award for poetry translations from the Polish P.E.N. Club in Warsaw in 1974; a Guggenheim Fellow for poetry 1976; received a honorary degree Doctor of Letters from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1977; won the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 1978; received the "Berkeley Citation" (an equivalent of a honorary Ph.D.) in 1978; nominated by the Academic Senate a "Research Lecturer" of 1979/1980.
In 1980 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Since his works had been banned in Poland by the communist government, this was the first time that many Poles became aware of him.
Through the Cold War, Milosz's name was often invoked in the United States, particularly by conservative commentators such as William F. Buckley, Jr., usually in the context of Milosz's 1953 book The Captive Mind. During that period, his name was largely passed over in silence in government-censored media and publications in Poland.
The Captive Mind has been described as one of the finest studies of the behavior of intellectuals under a repressive regime. Milosz observed that those who became dissidents were not necessarily those with the strongest minds, but rather those with the weakest stomachs; the mind can rationalize anything, he said, but the stomach can take only so much.
Milosz is honored at Israel's Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust, as one of the "Righteous among the Nations."
A poem by Milosz appears on a Gdansk memorial to protesting shipyard workers who had been killed by government security forces in 1970.
Czeslaw Milosz died on August 14, 2004.
Source: Nobelprize.org and wikipedia