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Bewildering Stories

Oscar Vladislas de Lubicz-Milosz

Bewildering Stories biography

Oscar Vladislas de Lubicz-Milosz was born on May 28th (May 15th according to the Julian calendar) 1877 on the private estate of Czereia, east of Minsk, an area that then belonged to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. His mother, whose maiden name was Rosenthal, came from a family of Polish Jews and his father, Vladislas de Lubicz-Milosz, had once been a cavalry officer in Tsarist Russia and was often away from home on safari in Africa or hot-air ballooning.

Consequently his son Oscar was more or less left to his own devices and had the run of his father’s estate in his absence. This huge estate covered a vast area and consisted of a castle, a theatre and an orangery. It had been in the Milosz family of Oscar’s father since 1802.

In 1886 Oscar Vladislas was baptized a Christian in the Church of St. Alexander in Warsaw. In 1889 he came to France, where his father was now under the care of Doctor Charcot. In 1893. he got married in Paris. His mother, in the meantime, had also been baptized a Christian. From 1894 to 1896 he wrote his first poems in French and, in 1895, he met Oscar Wilde and the French symbolist poet Jean Moréas.

After the death of his father in 1902, he travelled, not just back to Lithuania, but also to Germany and Italy. He started to write plays as well as poems and even began in 1910 to write a novel, Les Zborowski (The Zborowskis), which he did not finish.

He was mobilized in 1916 and ended up in the diplomatic section of the press corps. In January 1919, his play Méphiboseth (Mephibosheth) was premiered in Paris at the Idealist Theatre of Carlos Larronde.

On the 11th of March 1920, the new Republic of Lithuania was formally recognized by France as a de facto independent state. At the end of the year, Oscar was given the job of Lithuanian chargé d’affaires in France. He now became, among many other things, a career diplomat.

La Confession de Lémuel (The Confession of Lemuel), a sequence of poems that contains a deeply personal poem in which he reflects on his childhood in Czereia, La berline arrêtée dans la nuit (The Landau Pulled Up in the Night), was published in 1922 and Contes et Fabliaux de la vieille Lithuanie (Tales and Fables of Old Lithuania) in 1930.

O.V. de Lubicz-Milosz eventually died of a heart attack, apparently brought on by his trying frustratedly to get a pet canary back into its cage, on March 2nd, 1939 at his home in Fontainebleau just outside Paris.

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Translator’s note: This biographical overview of the author’s life has been suggested to me by the section Repères chronologiques, pp. 229-241 of the book O. V. de L. Milosz La Berline arrêtée dans la nuit - Anthologie poétique (Poésie/Gallimard) © Editions Gallimard, 1999).

Copyright © 2020 by Michael Wooff

Bewildering Stories bibliography

The Landau Pulled Up in the Night

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