I came to Cracow on a foggy day just before Christmas 2003 to interview Czeslaw Milosz, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, for the Swedish newspaper Göteborgs-Posten. After having lived most of his life in exile, it is no surprise that Milosz chose to spend his final years in Cracow – no other Polish city offers such a fascinating fusion of culture, tradition and modernity.
Milosz was born in 1911 in Lithuania, at that time a part of Russia. He studied in Vilnius and made his debut as a poet in 1933. He was considered to be one of the most promising young Polish poets in the years between the First and Second World Wars. Shortly before the start of the Second World War he left his post as diplomat and sought political asylum in France. In 1961 he accepted an offer of a professorship at the University of California in Berkeley, where he lectured for over 20 years, devoting his time simultaneously to academic duties, writing and translating.