Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Ruth Franklin’s essay about Gombrowicz, “Imp of the Perverse,” (The New Yorker, 7/30/12) is hooked to the publication of the Polish author’s Diary (in single volume form), which originally appeared in Polish émigré journal Kultura. Gombrowicz who would eventually become famous for Ferdydurke which Franklin describes as “a masterpiece of twentieth- century world literature…dismissed by establishment critics at the time as ‘the ravings of a madman.’” In the course of her essay, Franklin brings up another Gombrowicz work, Polish Memories which deals with the development of the author’s voice. “ ‘From the beginning the nonsensical and the absurd were very much to my liking, and I was never more satisfied than when my pen gave birth to some scene that was truly crazy, removed from the (healthy) expectations of mediocre logic, and yet firmly rooted in its own separate logic,’” Franklin quotes Gombrowicz as saying in Polish Memories. An exiled aristocrat, who lived for twenty years in Buenos Aires and whose credo qualifies as a Polish version of the Breton’s famed Surrealist Manifesto, Gombrowicz could also have been a surrealist creation—for instance one of one of the trapped aristocrats in Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel. As Franklin says, “He set out to create a new kind of literature—promoting immaturity and imperfection as a cure for inauthenticity.” Of course, while Gombrowicz was issuing the pronunciamentos of his Diary from afar, the great Polish filmmaker Andrei Wajda eluded the censors, succeeding in experimenting with surrealist technique and symbolism in his trilogy A Generation (l954), Kanal (l956) and Ashes and Diamonds (l958), on his own turf. Polish history haunts the work of both these artists, like the ghost in Hamlet.

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