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Milosz on genres of witness

March 10, 2014 Leave a comment

One of the great witnesses of the past century, the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz, explained in this way the importance of individual voices and traces of particular lives:

Unless we can relate it to ourselves personally, history will always be more or less an abstraction and its content the clash of impersonal forces and ideas. Although generalizations are necessary to order this vast, chaotic material, they kill the individual detail that tends to stray from the schema. Doubtless every family archive that perishes, every account book that is burned, every effacement of the past reinforces classifications and ideas at the expense of reality. Afterwards all that remains of entire centuries is a kind of popular digest.      —Czeslaw Milosz, Native Realm

Genres of witness might include the essay (not the school essay) and some kinds of blogging.

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