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The Captive Mind Paperback – International Edition, August 11, 1990


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (August 11, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679728562
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679728566
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Polish (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

A central text in the modern effort to understand totalitarianism. --The New York Times Book Review

"As timely today as when it was written."--Jerzy Kosinski


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Customer Reviews

A lot of times if a book is really good, I sort of like that I've read it and other people haven't.
thescalpel
This is a very clear presentation of the situation that writers--as well as whole countries--behind the Iron Curtain were facing after WWII.
Jamsodon
The answer is that Communism, more than the West, respects the word as a power for propaganda, and treats writers very well.
Jiang Xueqin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

133 of 141 people found the following review helpful By R. W. Rasband VINE VOICE on August 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
In the forward to this remarkable book Milosz writes that he wants to give the totalitarian point of view "in his own words, from his own point of view." The result is this ambitious, fascinating tour of the human mind twisted by the lies of the culture that surroundes it. It's a schizophrenic place that resembles the scarier novels of the noir writer Jim Thompson. There's nothing solid to cling to; everything dissolves into fear and loathing. Milosz turns his poetical gifts to the case studies of several Polish intellectuals who became entangled with the Communist party. Milosz doesn't name them but one is clearly Tadeusz Borowski, the author of the Holocaust short story collection "This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen." The title of that book in Polish was "The Stony World", which reflected how Borowski, an Auschwitz survivor, came to see the world--as dominated by force, without effective moral constraint. Milosz depicts Borowski as a man who sought shelter under the protection of the strongest earthly power available--the Communists--but was unable finally to justify the price of that loyalty (he committed suicide.) What keeps someone from succumbing to "Ketman" (the two-facedness that Orwell called "double-think?) Milosz implies the answer is religious faith, which allows one to trust in an objective truth beyond the lies and terror of the stony world (he was a devout Catholic.) This book is a must read for anyone who wants to keep the world from stealing his soul.
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70 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Jon L. Albee TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
Never have I read a more vivid and convincing thesis defending the virtues of intellectual freedom. Though frequently difficult to read--the author (or the translator) shifts frequently from first to second to third person (and back again) in mid paragraph--the work is central to understanding not only the intellectual seductiveness of the "rule of philosophy" but, more importantly and generally, the dangers of intellectual conformity. Milosz's dissection of intellectuals' attraction to leftist social systems becomes a defense of open society in both the intellectual and general communities. We come to understand most fundamentally the concept of intellectual freedom, and how the elimination of it becomes the ultimate goal of authoritarian leftist politics... despite claims otherwise.
Many intellectuals believe that their interests are best served by socialism or communism. Milosz explains why they are frequently fooled into believing this, and why many of the very components of socialism and communism that intellectuals most covet--freedom from vulgar market forces and important roles in the administration of society--are the very forces that strip them of their liberty. He illustrates this process with four character examples.
Though written in the throes of the Cold War, this work could not be more timely. And though it is written as an attack on Communism (with a big "C") and is rife with often knee-jerk anti-Russian rhetoric, it's arguements can be easily applied to all forms of totalitarianism, both left and right. Mostly, Milosz is attempting to defend the chaotic human condition from idealogical molding and, considering contemporary encroachments of politics, government, and religion into the lives of human beings, this book is as valid and important today as it was in 1953. Not to be missed.
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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
"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 abtruse books of philosophy". That's how this book begins, and it captures Milosz's major theme: the vast difference between "abtruse books of philosophy" and real human beings. In a series of connected essays, he studies that difference, and the ways in which people respond when they're forced to deny it. Most of the essays tell the stories of writers that Milosz knew in Warsaw before the war, and the different routes they took to becoming instruments of communist propaganda. Of the other essays, the one most powerful to an American reader is "Looking to the West", which starts with Milosz being asked whether Americans are really stupid. The writing is beautiful and vivid. I highly recommend this book to anybody who dislikes the oversimplifications of ideology. I recommend it even more highly to anybody who doesn't.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Integrity Reviews on July 8, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This short volume of essays is one of the finest books I have ever read. It is not for nothing that Milosz was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The discussions of the Baltics and Poland under communism are horrifying, profound, and stimulate the deepest thought and emotions. Essential reading for those interested in man's freedom, and in the contrasts between true religion and the false diety of historical "necessity".
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jiang Xueqin on June 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote from the Soviet Union, Vaclav Havel from Czechoslovakia, and Czeslaw Milosz from Poland, but they all lived under the shadow of Communism, and thus they wrote about the same things. Czeslaw Milosz (who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980) defected from Poland in 1951, and his book "The Captive Mind" attempts to justify and to explain his defection.

"The Captive Mind" is a description and analysis and critique of Communism's mind-workers, its writers. Milosz starts with an interesting question: given the totalitarian aspects of Communism, why did not all the writers defect to a land when they can write whatever they want? The answer is that Communism, more than the West, respects the word as a power for propaganda, and treats writers very well. In fact, there's hardly any resistance, and it's truly striking how the whole intellectual class was ready and willing to prostitute itself to the demands and directives of the Center in Moscow. Some of this can be blamed on fatigue and disillusionment resulting from World War II, some to opportunism, most to apathy. (Also, the natural human instinct to just get along, rather than to cause friction.) Milosz makes it clear that as a writer his conscience cannot permit him to live in such a state of affairs, and thus he chooses exile.

Towards the end of the book, Milosz criticizes Pablo Neruda. As a former Polish translator of Neruda's poetry, Milosz believes that the great poet ought to write what he knows: in other words, he should continue to criticize the oppression of his native land, but shouldn't because of that be too ready and willing to praise the Soviet Union.

While Milosz does not overtly praise America, there is always that bias in his writings.
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