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abc m

I've always been a fan of the sideways material of great poets -- Charles Simic's or Yevgeny Yevtushenko's ephemera or biographies -- and it's no different with Czeslaw Milosz, RIP. (I'm a fan of their main material first, I might say, just so not to be misinterpreted -- we've been drinking wine outside the Indian place on the corner, and accepting free amazing food and reading to each other from Chine Mieville and Susanna Clarke; these are friends of misinterpretation.)

As Ed has noted, Sam has many links to the relevant places. I offer you a piece of the last entry of his Milosz's ABC's, my unlikely favorite of his work:


Disappearance, of people and objects. Because we live in time, we are subject to the law that nothing lasts forever, everything passes. People disappear, as do animals, trees, landscapes, and as everyone knows who lives long enough, the memory of those who were once alive disappears, too. Only a very few people preserve their memory -- their closest kinfolk, friends -- but even in their consciousness the faces, gestures, words gradually fade away, to vanish forever when there is no longer anyone to bear witness.

Faith in a life beyond the grave, common to all mankind, draws a line between the two worlds. Communication between them is difficult. Orpheus must agree to certain conditions before he is permitted to descend into Hades in search of Eurydice. Aeneas gains access thanks to certain charms. Those who dwell in Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise in Dante do not leave their posthumous dwelling places to inform the living about what has happened to them. In order to learn of their fate, the poet must visit the land of the dead, guided by Virgil, a spirit, since he died long ago on earth, and then by Beatrice, who dwells in the heavens.


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