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Witold Gombrowicz (1904–1969)

Witold Gombrowicz was a Polish novelist and dramatist whose works resonated with many developments in twentieth-century French thought, from existentialism to structuralism. After his education in Poland in law, Gombrowicz moved to Paris where he studied briefly at the Institut des Hautes Études Internationales. His first novel, Ferdydurke (1937), explored the subjection of the individual to various social and aesthetic forms and was read as a work consistent with themes developed by Jean-Paul Sartre around this same time. Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, Gombrowicz moved to Argentina, where he would remain until 1963. The translation of Ferdydurke into Spanish in 1947 is considered by many to be a key moment in the history of modern Argentinean literature. Throughout the 1950s Gombrowicz maintained a prolific output, leading to increasing disparagement from Polish authorities and increasing renown throughout Europe. His works appeared in translation in French journals with great frequency, and in 1963 Gombrowicz returned to Europe and established residence in West Berlin. His novels Pornografia (1960) and Kosmos (1965) were translated into French shortly after their publication in Polish. In volume seven of the Cahiers pour l’Analyse, François Regnault undertakes a structuralist reading of the former novel that emphasizes Gombrowicz’s expression of the asymptotic nature of writing and the subjective nature of the narrative itself, structure incarnated by the novel’s characters.

In the Cahiers pour l’Analyse

Jacques-Alain Miller and François Regnault, ‘Avertissement, L’orientation du roman’, CpA 7.Introduction [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]
François Regnault, ‘Optique de Gombrowicz’, CpA 7.3 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]

Select bibliography

  • Ferdydurke. Warsaw: Towarzystwo Wydawnicze ‘Ròj’, 1937. Ferdydurke, trad. Georges Sédir. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1995. Ferdydurke, trans. Danuta Borchardt, preface by Susan Sontag. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000.
  • Pornografia. Paryz: Instytut literacki, 1960. La Pornographie, traduction de Georges Lisowski. Paris: Julliard, 1962. Pornografia, trans. Alastair Hamilton. London: Calder and Boyers, 1966.
  • Kosmos. Paryz: Instytut literacki, 1965. Cosmos, traduction de Georges Sédir. Paris: Denoël, 1966. Cosmos, trans. Danuta Borchardt. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005.