Gombrowicz does himself


“I have something left in reserve”, Witold Gombrowicz (1904-1996) wrote in the “Introduction” to the first volume of his famous intellectual achievement, Diary – “but what remains is rather intimate, I would prefer not to present it here. I don’t want to cause myself trouble. Maybe someday […] Later.” Trouble? Gombrowicz had never seemed particularly averse to causing trouble for himself through his previous literary provocations: the revaluation of Polishness; exposing the lack of intellect among various hommes de lettres; ridiculing worshippers of form and enemies of individuality. Today we know the source of Gombrowicz’s fears. That “something left in reserve”, closely guarded and carefully annotated by the author until his death, was recently published in Poland for the first time as Kronos. Gombrowicz’s private diary is a notebook, a chronicle, a dry record of the facts of Gombrowicz’s life. This is not a literary creation. Gombrowicz presents himself to us, as well as to himself, completely naked and performs a brutal auto-vivisection with surgical precision. We get to know about his illnesses (eczema, ulcers, syphilis, crumbling teeth, liver pains, sciatica, asthma), his casual hetero- and homosexual partners (as he noted in 1956, “Eroticism: great calming down, 11” – where “11” refers to the number of sexual partners that day), financial accounts (“I have about 16,000 dollars, oh the irony!”) or his own evaluation of his literary career (“Growing prestige in Poland and Germany”). Finally, we see him ageing and struggling with his own body.

more from Piotr Kiezun and Jaroslaw Kuisz at Eurozine here.