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The Captive Mind (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 7 Jun 2001


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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (7 Jun 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141186763
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141186764
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 204,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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About the Author

Milosz Czeslaw (b. 1911), Polish-American author, translator, and critic who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980. Czeslaw Milosz worked with the Polish Resistance movement in Warsaw during World War II and defected to France in 1951. His work brings to bear the political awareness of an exile -- most notably in A Treatise on Poetry, a forty-page exploration of the world wars that rocked the first half of the twentieth century.

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IT was only toward the middle of the twentieth century that the inhabitants of many European countries came, in general unpleasantly, to the realization that their fate could be influenced directly by intricate and abstruse books of philosophy. Read the first page
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81 of 82 people found the following review helpful By C. M. Green on 14 Feb 2002
Format: Paperback
At the risk of overstatement, this is one of the handful of books from the twentieth century that genuinely deserve the description 'great'. It is about the use of coercive power by clear minds in the cause of absurd lies. And it's about how those clear minds turn that coercive power on themselves before they do it to others.
Written by Poland's foremost poet, who emigrated to America after the war, it is presented as an analysis of intellectual life under Stalin. It serves, though, as an analysis of the life of the mind under any intellectually oppressive dictatorship, and the processes which force, cajole and woo thinking men and women to believe self-evident lies.
If you've ever wondered how people can have believed such culturally self destructive nonsense as Stalin's progroms, and convinced themselves that it is socially necessary not only to do so but force others to do so too, this is the book for you. By extension, though - and Milosz won't allow his case to remain in the East or the past - whether we believe the lies of left or right, liberalism, libertarianism or the 'third way', we can all potentially persuade ourselves to deceive ourselves and others for the good of our cause.
This book is a wonder, and deserves careful study by any one who aspires to political office or intellectual leadership. More importantly, it should be read by all of us who have a vested interest in the integrity of our political life. The temptation to by dazzled by a hypothetical future, and to make ourselves and others in the present pay horrific prices for that, is ever present, and requires constant deconstruction and examination.
Only someone who had lived in Stalin's thought-world could analyse it so clearly; perhaps only someone who had also lived in the West could see the increasing relevance of those lessons for the deomocratic countries too.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By gabeso on 19 Jun 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A realpolitik assessment of the human impact of twentieth century ideologies from the Polish perspective: A perfect partner to 1984 (Orwell).

A disturbing journal from someone who lived through the fear and persecution - when you have no freedom you will grow to fit the container supplied.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By meddyg saes on 2 Jun 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was mentioned in glowing terms by Tony Judt in his book "Memory Chalet" so I decided to read it. It is a fabolous and thought provoking.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By heavy reader on 26 Jun 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's hard to state the importance of this book if you want to understand stalinism how it was implemented on poland and the countries stalin crossed and occupied in eastern europe after the soviet union marched to berlin. Mi³osz explaines some of the ways the marx,engels 'theory' was used to the gains of this tyrant.Whats so terrifiying is that there is a battle of the conscience to conform or in stalinist poland to die or be sent to the soviet gulags.He goes to great lengths to explain his views and knowledge of the events he experienced in warsaw in WWII seeing the german occupation to the ghetto uprising to the battle for polish freedom (warsaw uprising 1944).
He tells a great account of how he and his friends who during the german occupation witnessed and lived within the german system which they fought and propagated against,which demanded only slavery of the body .
Then after that occupation they were occupied by the soviet union.which demanded slavery of both body and mind and to conform and then propagate for it.He gives a account of four friends(mainly part of the polish intelligencia)he spent his childhood and the war with and how they sold there pre-war beliefs and talents to help stalin and his minions in the mastery of the polish people.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By F Henwood TOP 500 REVIEWER on 24 Nov 2013
Format: Paperback
Czeslaw Milosz was a Polish poet and cultural attaché to the west who initially was a qualified supporter, from a socialist rather than communist standpoint, of Poland's post-war communist government. While the Polish communist party had little in the way of outright support (its weakness compounded by the murder of many of cadres by Stalin in 1930s), it could appeal to the desire on the part of many, not just communists, to see real changes made. Milosz was one of them, and so were many of the intellectuals he knew from this time.

Aware of their weaknesses, the communists gave assiduous reassurances of governing as part of a progressive coalition, promises that they were of course to renege. No iron fist in a velvet glove. Just the iron fist. Those best placed to see what was happening, the intellectuals, who should have spoken out, instead wielded their power of thought to justify a political reality antithetical to free thought. This book is about those people, told in the form of personal portraits (using monikers, not their real names) of peers whom the author knew, and how they managed to turn thought against itself, to stop thinking. He portrays the way they saw things, without excusing or exculpating anyone. His portrayals of the people he knew, their motivations and the way they thought, are vivid and compelling.

Reading the book, I am not sure if he means to claim that the outcome would have been any different had they spoken out: after all, the communists imposed their will on the country because they could do so, underwritten by Soviet military guarantee, and nothing that the intellectuals could have said or done would have made any difference.
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