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Milosz, Oscar


MILOSZ, OSCAR (originally Oscar Venceslas De Lubicz-Milosz , 1877–1939), French poet, mystical writer, and diplomat. Milosz, who was born in Chereya, Belorussia to a Lithuanian nobleman and the baptized daughter of a Warsaw Hebrew teacher, was raised as a Catholic. He nevertheless retained a warm regard for his Jewish heritage and developed a keen interest in the Kabbalah. At the age of 12 he was taken to Paris, where he later studied Hebrew and Assyrian at the Ecole des Langues Orientales. He was Lithuania's minister resident in Paris (1919–26) but, despite his eventual assumption of French citizenship, remained attached to his ancestral land, which inspired his Contes et fabliaux de la vieille Lithuanie (1930) and Contes lithuan iennes de ma Mère L'Oye (1933). In his poetry Milosz progressed from erotic mysticism to spiritual and metaphysical speculation. Among his early works were L'Amoureuse initiation (1910), a novel in the form of a poetic monologue, and two plays, Miguel Mañara (1912; Eng. tr. in Poet Lore, 1919) and Méphiboseth (1914), the second of which dealt with David and Bathsheba. His mystical experiences inspired two metaphysical works, Ars magna (1924) and Le Poème des Arcanes (1927). These mingle Catholic theology with mystical and kabbalistic doctrine, stressing the belief that man possesses the ability to perceive reality as it is seen by God and that this faculty, at present hidden, will one day be recovered. In his Arcanes, Milosz glorified the Jewish people as the servant of humanity who "preserved the sacred treasure of the original Revelation in all its purity through a thousand vicissitudes for the sole purpose of the world's future regeneration." Les origines ibériques du peuple juif (1932), a product of Milosz' last, kabbalistic, and eschatological period, attempted to prove, by comparing Andalusian and biblical place-names and Basque and Hebrew etymology, that the Hebrews emigrated to Canaan from southern Spain.


A. Richter, Milosz (Fr., 1965); J. Buge, Milosz en quête du divin (1963); A. Godoy, Milosz, le Poète de l'Amour (1961); G.I. Židonis, O.V. de L. Milosz (Fr., 1951); J. Rousselot, O.V. de L. Milosz (Fr., 1949).

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