Gould Center

The Milosz Institute

Robert Faggen with Czeslaw Milosz

Robert Faggen with Czeslaw Milosz

Established as a non-profit organization in 2009, The Milosz Institute is dedicated to the life and work of Czeslaw Milosz, one of the 20th century's most powerful writers. Poet, novelist, and essayist, Milosz became renowned in Europe and in the United States for a landmark work of political psychology, The Captive Mind (1952). But his achievement as a poet, for which he was awarded the 1980 Nobel Prize, places him amongst the giants of 20th century literature. Spiritually luminous and intellectually incisive, Milosz's work bears witness to the tragedies of 20th century history and to mankind's struggle for self-definition.

The Milosz Institute sponsors research through fellowships, publications, symposiums that adds to our understanding of the complex themes of his work (literature, religion, science, history and politics) and his times, including the many authors--from Mann and Eliot to Jeffers and Ginsburg to Gombrowicz and Szymborska—with whom his work is interwoven.

Robert Faggen, the Director of the Gould Center and Milosz Institute, has edited Milosz's letters to Thomas Merton, interviewed the author for several publications including The Paris Review, and published numerous essays about his life and work. He organized the 1998 International Milosz Festival, in which Milosz participated, and the 2011 Milosz Centennial Symposium, both at Claremont McKenna College.

Please direct all inquiries to rfaggen@cmc.edu

CMC and Milosz: A Timeline

Claremont McKenna College has had a long relationship with Czeslaw Milosz and the Polish culture. Here are just a few selected entries from that history:

March 21, 1990: CMC hosts an evening with Czeslaw Milosz
March 10, 1992: Czeslaw Milosz speaks at CMC's Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum on Poland
Winter 1994: CMC's professor Robert Faggen Interviews Czeslaw Milosz for The Paris Review
April 11, 1995: Czeslaw Milosz reads from his work at the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum
April 24, 1998: CMC hosts a festival honoring the work of Czeslaw Milosz featuring over thirty of the world's leading poets, authors, critics, editors, and scholars
January 17, 2002: Leszek Kolakowski named Podlich Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Claremont McKenna College, to teach seminar with professor Robert Faggen
February 12, 2002: Leszek Kolakowski discusses the concepts of natural justice and natural law in lecture at CMC
March 7, 2002: Leszek Kolakowski discusses the meaning of truth in lecture at CMC
Summer 2002: CMC Professor Robert Faggen interviews Leszek Kolakowski
April 4, 2005: CMC hosts Adam Michnik's discussion on the legacy of Czeslaw Milosz
April 19, 2005: Joanna Zach speaks on Czeslaw Milosz at the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum
April 22, 2005: CMC's professor Robert Faggen participates in the PEN International Tribute to the late Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz
Summer 2009: Three CMC students receive Milosz Fellowships to study in Poland
October 2009: CMC's professor Robert Faggen participates in the Czeslaw Milosz Literary Festival in Krakow, Poland
February 22, 2010: Polish writer, historian, and lecturer Adam Michnik invited to speak at Claremont McKenna College
October 2011: CMC hosts "Milosz and the Future: A Centenary Festival"

Milosz Institute Fellows

Jonathan Bolton
Jonathan Bolton

"Narratives of Dissent"

After the Cold War, the western image of the dissident was a mixture of romanticism and political idealism (jailed intellectual, secret publications or the courage to speak out at great personal risk). But these images have been largely defined by Western writers and journalists and do not describe the complex reality and ironic attitudes that defined dissent in Central Europe's struggles against state repression. In his groundbreaking new book, "Worlds of Dissent," Jonathan Bolton considers how such legendary figures as Vaclav Havel but also many other writers and artists--including Ludvik Vaculik (author of the diary "The Czech Dream Book") and the rock group "The Plastic People of the Universe"--contributed in their own ways to pushing the communist government in Czechoslovakia to respect human rights but hesitated to call or consider themselves "dissidents." The life stories Bolton describes revise misleading and burdensome concepts of the dissident. Havel himself dismissed the term "dissident" because "the more some citizens stand up in defense of other citizens, the more they are labeled with a word that in effect separates them. And there were disagreements with Havel. Bolton offers a rare portrait of the complexity of dissent in a closed society.

Bolton, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University, has also edited and translated Ivan Wernisch's In the Puppet Gardens: Selected Poems, 1963-2005. A graduate of Harvard College, Bolton received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and was elected to the Harvard University Society of Fellows.


Piotr Florczyk
Piotr Florczyk

Piotr Florczyk is a poet, essayist, and translator from his native Polish. His book publications include four volumes of translations of Polish poetry, including most recently.

  • Froth: Poems by Jaroslaw Mikolajewski (Calypso Editions, 2013)
  • The Folding Star and Other Poems by Jacek Gutorow (BOA Editions, 2012)
  • Building the Barricade and Other Poems of Anna Swir (Calypso Editions, 2011)

His individual poems, translations, essays, and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Times Literary Supplement, The New Yorker, Threepenny Review, Salmagundi, Michigan Quarterly Review, Slate, Boston Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, World Literature Today, and other journals. He teaches at San Diego State University and at University of San Diego. Piotr Florczyk lives in Santa Monica, California.


Eric Karpeles
Eric Karpeles

Eric Karpeles is a painter and the author of the remarkable "Paintings in Proust: A Visual Companion to In Search of Lost Time" (2008). In that book, Eric Karpeles identified and located the many paintings to which Proust makes reference; in other cases, where only a painter's name is mentioned to indicate a certain style or appearance, Karpeles chose a representative work to illustrate the impression that Proust sought to evoke. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/arts/design/02kenn.html?pagewanted=all.

Karpeles' own painting "The Sanctuary" was created in response to need of the HIV/AIDS community for a welcoming environment for mourning and the experience of loss. His expansive surround of painted surfaces traveled around the United States, ending with a three-month exhibit in New York's Grand Central Terminal. His "Driving to the Interior," a tribute to the art and vision of Elizabeth Bishop, is now installed at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and he created a non-denominational chapel space (commissioned by Mary and Laurance Rockefeller) for the New York headquarters of the HealthCare Chaplaincy.

Now as a Milosz Institute Fellow, Karpeles has turned his attention to a ground-breaking interpretive biography of Joseph Czapski, an eminent Polish artist, author, and critic and one of the very few Polish officers to survive the Katyn massacre. After World War II, Czapski remained in exile in the suburbs of Paris and founded "Kultura," one of the most influential intellectual journals of the 20th century.


Lillian Vallee
Lillian Vallee

The Milosz Institute is delighted to publish a landmark study of the poetry of Czeslaw Milosz by his former student and translator Lillian Vallee. Bear with a Cross illuminates and recovers the rich context of Milosz's youth in rural Lithuania in the early 20th century: his love of nature, fascination with ancient rituals, and his vast reading. Beautifully illustrated, the book will be an essential guide to understanding the whole of Milosz's work.

Lillian Vallee is an award-winning translator, writer and scholar who served an apprenticeship with Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz. Her most recent essays appear in The Invisible Rope and The Devil’s Punchbowl, and her most recent poems in Collision I, II & III; and in More Than Soil, More Than Sky: The Modesto Poets. She writes a popular monthly column, “Rivers of Birds, Forests of Tule: Central Valley Nature and Culture in Season,” which documents her bioregional passions. She is currently preparing two books for publication, Bear with a Cross: Primordial Tradition in the work of Czeslaw Milosz and a novel, Crane Season.