gombrowicz: the plotlessness thickens


Throughout the book, there are faint resonances of the intellectual prepossession with language that marked the era when “Cosmos” was written: the structural linguistics of Roman Jakobson, semiotics, the echo of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of “linguistic relativity” (which posits not consciousness but language itself as the human capacity that creates and organizes reality).

I don’t know whether Gombrowicz was deliberately playing with the intellectual currents of his day or whether he was one of those seminal artists who give voice to questions scholars will later rationalize. It doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that the insight in these remarkable pages is creatively captivating and intellectually challenging. Perhaps Gombrowicz’s break-out attempt from the Nietzschean “prison house of language,” in which postmodernism so blithely accepts its life sentence, feels a bit quaint today. But it’s also true that in the 40 years since “Cosmos” was published, no one has done any better.

more from the NY Times Book Review here.