Ecstatic Pessimist is a timely book about the Central and Eastern European experience of the mid 20th century, as told through the poetry and experiences of Czeslaw Milosz, Nobel Laureate for literature, who wrote on the horrors of war and the human experience. Written by a colleague and friend of the poet, it is part literary criticism and part memoir.
This biography/memoir of Czesław Miłosz is a first hand account of the poet’s life and his relationship to the author, beginning in the 1960s. Milosz was a Polish-American poet, prose writer, translator, and diplomat. Regarded as one of the great poets of the 20th century, he won the 1980 Nobel Prize in Literature. In its citation, the Swedish Academy called Miłosz a writer who "voices man's exposed condition in a world of severe conflicts".
Peter Dale Scott taught at Sedbergh School and McGill University before joining the Canadian Department of External Affairs and the Canadian Embassy in Warsaw, Poland. Returning to academic life Peter Dale Scott taught at the University of California for over thirty years. Books by Peter Dale Scott include The War Conspiracy: The Secret Road to the Second Indochina War, Crime and Cover-Up: The CIA, the Mafia, and the Dallas-Watergate Connection, Deep Politics and the Death of JFK and Deep Politics II: Essays on Oswald, Mexico, and Cuba, Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America, Drugs, Oil, and War: The United States in Afghanistan, Colombia, and Indochina, The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America and American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan.
Of all the great poets of the late Twentieth Century, Milosz is the most multifaceted, even self-contradictory. Peter Dale Scott knew him personally. And he partly shares some of his subject's less fashionable attitudes: a certain sympathy for rural and conservative, as opposed to "neoliberal," values; and a utopian hope that poetry can "save nations or peoples." Scott's own dialectical thinking makes him a perfect guide to Milosz, especially to the texts less well known in American.
When Czeslaw Milosz began his California exile in 1960, poet and former diplomat Peter Dale Scott worked alongside him as a scholar, translator, and fellow poet. Ecstatic Pessimist is the culmination of decades of their thought, study, and friendship. "I have tried to be true to the Milosz I knew and loved," he writes. He has succeeded. We are fortunate to have Scott as a guide to one of the greatest poets of our times, offering us a wise, insightful, and deeply learned journey through Milosz’s poems and life in these pages. Scott has waited sixty years to share this rich legacy.
Czelaw Milosz, with his unblinking witness to horror and his insistence on hope for humanity, has never seemed more relevant. To meet this moment, Peter Dale Scott bring his more than fifty years of personal and critical engagement with Milosz. Ecstatic Pessimist simultaneously illuminates the arc of Milosz’s oeuvre and narrates a passionate reader’s lifelong engagement. A major contribution to Milosz studies.