Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Witold Gombrowicz (VEE-told Gom-BROH-veech) was born, about 200 kilometers from Warsaw, into a well-to-do Polish noble family. He studied law and French literature at Warsaw University from 1926 to 1932. During his studies he was something of a bon-vivant, involved in the cultural and social life of the Polish capital. After completing his education, he found employment with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a translator. There he met his best friend, Jerzy Giedroyc . In 1933 Gombrowicz published several short stories as Memoirs of a Time of Immaturity ; however, they were found strange, and were unpopular, among the Warsaw cultural establishment. His first success came with the novel Ferdydurke, which won notoriety from the virulent criticism directed at it by the nationalistic part of the Warsaw establishment.
Several days before the outbreak of World War II, he bought a boat ticket for Argentina. During the voyage, Germany suddenly invaded Poland. The voyage ended in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where all civilian passengers were forced to disembark; many, including Gombrowicz, were to remain in Argentina due to shortage of funds.
Gombrowicz was invited by Argentine members of his friend Giedroyc's family to stay at their estate pending war's end, but after the German invasion of France it became clear that the war might take some time. Hence Gombrowicz settled in Buenos Aires, there to remain for the next 25 years. He taught French at a private secondary school and met his future wife Rita, a member of the Buenos Aires artistic bohemia.
After World War II, Gombrowicz--son of a rich landowner--could not go back to a communist Poland. His novels and plays were blacklisted there until the late 70s; however, they were published in Polish by his friend Giedroyc , who in 1950 had established a Polish publishing house called Kultura in Paris, France. Because many books published by Kultura were smuggled into Poland, Gombrowicz's works became well known there. Giedroyc also translated Ferdydurke and Trans-Atlantyk into French. In the late 50s, the semi-autobiographical novel Trans-Atlantyk was staged in Paris and met with interest from French theater critics, bringing Gombrowicz a measure of fame. In 1965 he left Argentina and settled with his wife in Paris.
Gombrowicz's works are characterized by deep psychological analysis, a certain sense of paradox and an absurd, anti-nationalist flavor. In 1937 he published his first novel, Ferdydurke, which presents many themes explored in his further writings: the problems of immaturity and youth, the masks taken on by men in front of others, and an ironic, critical examination of class rolls in Polish society and culture, specifically among the nobility, representatives of the Catholic Church and provincal Poles. Ferdydurke provoked sharp critical reactions and immediately divided Gombrowicz's audience into rival camps of worshipers and sworn enemies.
Gombrowicz is an exceptional writer who always struggled with Polish traditions and the country's difficult history. However, this battle comprised the starting point for his stories, which remain deeply rooted in this tradition and history. Gombrowicz was always a writer and a man who would not sacrifice his imagination or his originality for any price, person, god, society or doctrine.
Most famous works
- Ferdydurke – a 1937 novel
- Trans-Atlantyk – a 1953 novel
- Ślub [The Wedding] – a 1953 play
- Bacacay – a 1957 collection of short stories
- Iwona, księżniczka Burgundii [Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy] – a 1958 play
- Pornografia – a 1960 novel
- Historia – a 1962 play
- Kosmos – a 1967 novel
- Pamiętniki [Journals, 1939–], published in Poland in 1991
Gombrowicz's novels and plays have been translated into English, French, German, Spanish, Japanese and Romanian. The recent English translation of Ferdydurke (by Danuta Borchardt ) is generally considered very good, as is the interesting translation of Trans-Atlantyk (Carolyn French chose to translate it into faux 17th-century English ).
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