I discovered Polish literature quite by accident. Arriving in Berkeley in 1960 to pursue a degree in Russian, I was told that I would be required to learn a second Slavic language, literature, history. I chose Polish because I was drawn by the magnetism of Professor Czeslaw Milosz, known in the U.S. at the time only as the author of The Captive Mind. Though there were several émigré poets teaching various East European literatures, Milosz was the most attractive, always scowling or exuberant; his eyebrows were especially wonderful, like the tails of startled foxes. He proved an ideal mentor. Aside from teaching me Polish literature, he instilled in me a respect for translation, a craft he himself has never ceased to practice. Since I had early on made the decision to live by my pen, I ended up translating a good many books, two of which are reviewed in Breathing Under Water.


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