Read The Captive Mind by Czesław Miłosz Free Online
Book Title: The Captive Mind|
The author of the book: Czesław Miłosz
Edition: Vintage Books
Date of issue: August 11th 1990
ISBN 13: 9780394747248
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 835 KB
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Reader ratings: 6.2
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This is a book of acute psychological understanding, commiserative rumination, and towering moral fibre. Miłosz, a Lithuanian-Pole—a member of the untermenschen that Hitler deemed so pernicious to the rightful ascendancy of the Master Race—was raised imbibing enough of the West, whilst soaking in the East, to enable a judicious and sagacious appraisal of the Soviet Totalitarianism that overwhelmingly blanketed the entirety of Central and Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the Third Reich's collapse. Having survived six years of Nazi terror only to subsequently witness another half dozen spent establishing a new variety with a Russian flavor, Miłosz was perfectly situated to offer a diagnosis of this apparently unstoppable Historical force that had swept aside the greatest war machine ever assembled and was seemingly poised to bring the fruits of the revolution to the oppressed masses across the globe. Although always susceptible to the lure of Historical Materialism and its pitiless iron laws, Miłosz—a poet to the depths of his soul—simply was unable to accept the illusory as real, the lie as truth; and thus, after resigning himself to a life of exile, wherein his beloved Polish language would be unreachable, this remarkably clear-sighted individual would write The Captive Mind as a textual lesson for those of the West who doggedly sought to understand the all-encompassing, mesmerizing allure of this brutally conformist, collective mindset loudly declaiming the imminent victory of inexorable necessity.
Though the author's experience was of Stalinist communism, his analysis of the mental and spiritual attractions that totalitarianism presents to the intellectual are of such a sound structure that they further elucidate the hold authoritarian rule of all stripes exerts upon the allegiance of those seemingly best disposed to oppose such constricting bonds. While Miłosz acknowledged that physical violence, and an ever-present threat of the same, formed a vital component of Soviet despotism, he deemed of much more importance the Method by which the Russian Centre implemented the New Faith. In particular, he stressed the incredible strength inherent in Dialectic Materialism—the Leninist-Stalinist improvement upon Marx's improvement upon Hegel—when opposed by the Eastern European intelligentsia, a doomed assemblage of bourgeois thinkers, who had no means of denting the logical strictures of this rational religion and its bewildering dialectics based upon a life in eternal motion, and hence conflict. By its various appeals to these undisciplined minds—clouded by The Void, The Absurd, Necessity, and Success—the Method possessed the beguiling ability to justify any amount of cruelty, dismiss any amount of suffering, as merely the painful-but-unavoidable breaking of a historically-insignificant number of eggs on that glorious road to a future omelette of global equality and collective responsibility; ignore those screams, this implacably reasonable and rational voice demanded, and concentrate upon the bounteous laughter just over the horizon. Miłosz brilliantly and patiently explains all of the ways and means the New Faith possessed of persuading these intelligentsias—the mind, the author posits, can be brought to rationalize anything. He further describes how the West was perceived as a foolishly naïve and contemptibly chaotic enclave of frightened and strident reaction, of short lifespan and of no use to the intellectually rigorous true believer in the Stalinist utopia.
In what may be the most interesting chapter, the author outlines the origins of Ketman, a system of dissimulation originally conceived in medieval Persia as a method of concealing the inner self and its true beliefs behind a naturalistic-but-false façade; to the outside world of infidel overlords, Ketman hid a seething, rebellious spirit in the flesh of a model citizen. Miłosz explains how this Ketman was embraced in the Eastern Marches of the Imperium in seven different variations, as doubts about the New Faith bubbled-up continuously underneath the surface of these recent converts. The following four chapters tie together Ketman with his opening thesis in the examination of a tetrad of fellow Poles: Alpha, the Moralist; Beta, the Disappointed Lover; Gamma, the Slave of History; and Delta the Troubadour. These portraits—all of real men that Miłosz knew and, in some of the cases, loved—combine an immense insight and perceptive wisdom with deep compassion and understanding; he does not hold back from rigorously detailing all of their faults, delusions, and cruelties, but neither does he self-righteously condemn. At all times Miłosz is aware of the horrors his native country had endured (and was still enduring), of the appeal of a system that promised solutions to the endless violence and oppression and chaos that trampled Poland underfoot throughout the modern age. As the author cautions:
It is not my place to judge. I myself traveled the same road of seeming inevitability. In fleeing I trampled on many values that may determine the worth of a man. So I judge myself severely though my sins are not the same as his. Perhaps the difference in our destinies lay in a minute disparity in our reactions when we visited the ruins of Warsaw or gazed out the windows at the prisoners.
The book closes with a pair of chapters examining Man as the enemy of Historical Necessity, via the smoldering embers of hope, faith and creativity that refused to be stamped out, and the fate of the Baltic nations as a microcosm of all that was wrong, and perhaps doomed, in the New Faith and its self-contradictory Method.
It is difficult, in the space of a review, to do justice to the moving and potent genius of The Captive Mind. It is not just the sheer quality of the writing, which strides hand-in-hand with the thought, nor the fact that Miłosz is endlessly quotable, producing lines that translator Jane Zielonko has rendered beautifully into English; it's the manner in which Miłosz, having lived through the times and the Soviet implementation, continually stresses and shows the appeal of the Totalitarian lure, the rational and logical framework that allowed it to grow so high and so massive, before deftly and relentlessly undermining the entire edifice by exposing its hypocrisy and contradiction, its falsehoods and chimeras, its unsupportable weight and hollow core. He especially destroys the Method in the realm of art and the creative impulse, showing the inevitable sterility and mediocrity that ensues when spontaneous, spiritual impulses are smothered by predetermined, methodical ends. Art produced in the service of totalitarian demand can never be aught but propaganda; and if the drab, lifeless prose, the insipid, barren realism of the official Soviet literary and artistic elite was the end demanded by Progressive History, it raised the unavoidable question of whether such progress should not be halted in its grey-enshrouding tracks.
The Captive Mind, of course, remains as timely today as it was when first published to a mixed reception of praise and scorn; the world is still rife with systems that demand obedience from their flock above all else, systems wherein the ends justify the means and a truth that deviates from the system's dogma must perforce be declared a lie, whatever the internal pressure such an act brings to bear on the conscience of the true believer; where evidence must be altered, or denounced, if it does not support the regnant ideology. These systems can—and do—arise on all sides of the political and ideological spectrum. Armed with the enduringly wise and methodically brilliant perceptions and observations of this Polish Solon, the shrill cries of tendentious vehemence that resound around the world will continue to be understood for what they are: the noisome utterances of some new Method in the service of yet another New Faith.
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Author Czesław Miłosz wrote an interesting book called The Captive Mind. This book published Vintage Books, and for what-would buy the book The Captive Mind, you need to pay $5.66 for a copy. However, on our website, you can download the book in PDF or ePUB The Captive Mind file and read it completely free of charge. Here you can find other books by the author Czesław Miłosz, which you will enjoy the book as The Captive Mind. Join us and you will have a good opportunity to get a free ePUB The Captive Mind, and other interesting books.
Read information about the authorCzesław Miłosz memorialised his Lithuanian childhood in a 1955 novel, The Issa Valley , and in the 1959 memoir Native Realm . After graduating from Sigismund Augustus Gymnasium in Vilnius, he studied law at Stefan Batory University and in 1931 he travelled to Paris, where he was influenced by his distant cousin Oscar Milosz, a French poet of Lithuanian descent and a Swedenborgian. His first volume of poetry was published in 1934.
After receiving his law degree that year, he again spent a year in Paris on a fellowship. Upon returning, he worked as a commentator at Radio Wilno, but was dismissed, an action described as stemming from either his leftist views or for views overly sympathetic to Lithuania. Miłosz wrote all his poetry, fiction and essays in Polish and translated the Old Testament Psalms into Polish.
Awarded the 1980 Nobel Prize in Literature for being an author "who with uncompromising clear-sightedness voices man's exposed condition in a world of severe conflicts."
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