A Journal of the Irrepressible

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Pornografia by Witold Gombrowicz

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Set in war-torn, German-occupied Poland during World War II, Pornografia is a key text of late modernism — and this is the first edition that is a translation into English from Gombrowicz’s Polish. (The previous edition came into English from a French translation.)

Witold Gombrowicz is a novelist of psychological entanglements, and Pornografia is a novel of erotic entanglement. It is often cruel and sometimes cruelly funny. It is a novel by a man certain that language in some profound way determines ontology, that what we hear and say sculpts the way we are.

Set in a country idyll with the war roaring dully in the background, two refugee intellectuals conspire to contrive a liaison between a pair of kids who have grown up together there in the Polish countryside. Pornografia is an unholy little novel, chillingly dark, at times dripping with cynicism, but at its best beset by bracing, high-brow hilarity and jaded, deeply sublimated hysteria. First published in 1966, it’s only recently that readers have begun to talk about Gombrowicz as a Latin American writer rather than a Polish one. The question of influence is good, if ultimately divisive. Division is precisely Gombrowicz’s strength; you imagine he not only enjoys taking the frog apart with a tiny knife, he begins to split the world apart as if it were empirically just an intimately interbleeding network of heartbeats. Read the rest of this entry »

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Written by Brian

February 19th, 2010 at 8:53 pm