top of page

“Olga Tokarczuk, in her Nobel lecture of 7 December 2019, observed that the public nowadays prefers facts to fiction. This is an auspicious remark for my purposes, as my theme will be the autobiographical book of Czesław Miłosz, another Polish winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, who received his award in 1980, a year after Tokarczuk’s literary debut. The Blake of Tokarczuk’s novel Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead is part of a fictional world, a curious addition to the story: Agnieszka Holland’s film Spoor, adapted from the book and cowritten by the novelist, eliminates the Blake references without much (or perhaps any) loss to the plot. Conversely, the Blake of Miłosz’s Ziemia Ulro, initially published in 1977 (a round anniversary of Blake’s birth and death), is a vital part of life. I will first recall a few relevant details from Miłosz’s bi(bli)ography, then reflect on the character and quality of his tribute to William Blake. Unlike my chapter for The Reception of William Blake in Europe, whose profile dictated the method (that is, an overview) and the narrow focus on the role Miłosz’s book played in the history of the reception of Blake in Poland, I will engage here more intensively with Ziemia Ulro and, by doing so, postulate a much more extensive appeal of Miłosz’s work. In particular, I will be pointing to the importance and value of this book—translated into English by Louis Iribarne as The Land of Ulro—for international Blake circles. . . .”

bottom of page