The Mountains of Parnassus Czeslaw Milosz, Stanley Bill

The Margellos World Republic of Letters
Publication date:
07 Mar 2017
Yale University Press
184 pages: 197 x 127 x 19mm

The Nobel laureate’s unfinished science fiction novel—available in English for the first time ever

Awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1980, Czeslaw Milosz was one of the twentieth century’s most esteemed poets and essayists. This outstanding translation of his only hitherto unavailable work is classic Milosz and a necessary companion volume for scholars and general readers seeking a deeper understanding of his themes. Written in the 1970s and published posthumously in Polish in 2012, Milosz’s deliberately unfinished novel is set in a dystopian future where hierarchy, patriarchy, and religion no longer exist. Echoing the structure of The Captive Mind and written in an experimental, postmodern style, Milosz’s sole work of science fiction follows four individuals: Karel, a disaffected young rebel; Lino, an astronaut who abandons his life of privilege; Petro, a cardinal racked with doubt; and Ephraim, a potential prophet in exile. The original manuscript of this work is held at the Beinecke Library, and this edition will include photographs of the draft.

Czeslaw Milosz (1911–2004) was a Polish poet, novelist, essayist, translator, and diplomat of Polish and Lithuanian descent who defected to the West in 1951. Stanley Bill is lecturer in Polish studies at the University of Cambridge. He lives in Cambridge, UK.

“As accomplished as Milosz’s admirers would expect… They may be scraps, but as the cardinal argues, so is scripture. If art these days is an enterprise doomed to failure, as Milosz suggests, a trip to Parnassus in his company is still a stimulating outing, even if the gods and muses are in hiding.”—Andrew McKie, Spectator

“Milosz’s futuristic landscape unsettles and captivates.”—Publishers Weekly

“A worthwhile work of speculative fiction . . . with some brilliant flashes . . . It remains worth seeking out.”—M.A. Orthofer, Complete Review

“An unre­lenting vision of a dystopian future . . . If we read The Mountains of Parnassus as an allegory, we begin to appreciate how truly whole and unwaver­ing Milosz’s beliefs and ideas remained throughout the years . . . That the fragment we get ends with something that more than resembles a poem is salutary.”—Piotr Florczyk, World Literature Today

The Mountains of Parnassus should be read as poetry . . . wander back through its sentences, and find how one after another deploys words with utter precision . . . [like] a series of speculative prose poems . . . The philosophical strength of The Mountains of Parnassus amplifies as it moves from one story to the next . . . Indeed, perhaps the entire novel proves better suited to the current moment than to the one it was born out of 45 years ago.”—Emma Schneider, Full Stop

“[Milosz’s] visionary, cryptic novel The Mountains of Parnassus reveals his reservations about the future of our species . . . These aphoristic, hallucinatory shards are the slightly mismatched contents of a time capsule sent to us in the present.”—Cynthia Haven, Times Literary Supplement