Polish Memories

Witold Gombrowicz; Translated by Bill Johnston

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November 30, 2011
208 pages, 5 x 7 3/4"
ISBN: 9780300184457
Paper

Also Available in:
Cloth

Although Witold Gombrowicz’s unique, idiosyncratic writings include a three-volume Diary, this voluminous document offers few facts about his early life in Poland before his books were banned there and he went into voluntary exile. Polish Memories—a series of autobiographical sketches Gombrowicz composed for Radio Free Europe during his years in Argentina in the late 1950s—fills the gap in our knowledge.

Written in a straightforward way without his famous linguistic inventions, the book presents an engaging account of Gombrowicz’s childhood, youth, literary beginnings, and fellow writers in interwar Poland and reveals how these experiences and individuals shaped his seemingly outlandish concepts about the self, culture, art, and society. In addition, the book helps readers understand the numerous autobiographical allusions in his fiction and brings a new level of understanding and appreciation to his life and work.

Witold Gombrowicz is the author of Ferdydurke, Trans-Atlantyk, Pornografia, and Cosmos, the first two available from Yale University Press. These, along with his plays and the three-volume Diary, have been translated into more than thirty languages.

"A useful companion to Gombrowicz’s much more complex Diary, elucidating some of his more confounding ideas and locating them in their social and historical context. The book will serve as an introduction to an assemblage of major and minor literary figures, who jointly created the creative atmosphere of those inter-war years."—Jaroslaw Anders, author of Eastern European Literature in the Twentieth Century

“[The translation] provide[s] hope that for the first time it may be possible for those lacking fluency in Polish to enjoy this singular talent for all that he is. . . . He is brilliantly, savagely funny—a philosophical, stylistic and comic genius in one. . . . Gombrowicz is that rare writer in whom the weight of a powerful intellect is leavened by both linguistic daring and an infectious sense of whimsy.”—Benjamin Paloff, The Nation

“[Polish Memories] make splendid reading and offer an idiosyncratic account, surprising and touching in its fearless intimacy, of Gombrowicz’s family and milieu, his development as an artist, literary life in Warsaw, Polish national character and Polish anti-Semitism.”—Louis Begley, The Washington Post

"The book is a monologue showing the staking out of a young man's identity 'against' his family, morality, manners, history, and the power of non-native cultures. . . . Bill Johnston's translation is excellent. . . . Johnston achieves smoothness and accuracy in a language whose rhythm is very different from the Slavic rhythms of Polish or Russian. . . . I found [Gombrowicz] both likeable, instructive, and a great narrator. Gombrowicz is a many-leveled author, and what on one level appears to be irreverence, boorishness, and posing, on another is an incisive comment on human relations. Expect the unexpected: this is not a run-of-the-mill memoir. Gombrowicz teases originality out of the most commonplace people and situations. He can also be hilariously funny."—Ewa Thompson, Slavic and East European Journal


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