In his introduction to this work Gombrowicz's publisher Maurice Nadeau outlines the kind of character the author had. The sharpness of mind, the sarcasm , the focusing on paradox were all connected with Gombrowicz's outlandish conception of himself. He would get irritated thinking about Shakespeare and Goethe the only writers big enough to associate himself with. Nadeau while clearly believing in Gombrowicz as 'one of the most original writers of our time' obviously had strong reservations about him as a person. He writes of how Gombrowicz was angry at him for not getting him all kinds of things , including the Nobel Prize, Nadeau had no control over whatsoever. He gives a sense of Gombrowicz as a quite unpleasant, self- centered person whose own genius was the only subject that really concerned him.
In the memoir itself Gombrowicz does show a certain generosity. He speaks warmly of his friend Bruno Schulz. He commends his Jewish friends including Schultz who he says were the main supporters of his writing in his early days. He speaks it is true of his native Poland with less than full sympathy. This is perhaps a reflection of the twenty- eight years he spent in Argentinian exile . But also is a reflection of his own idea of 'Form' as he seems to believe that 'Form'is more perfectly embodied in England and France .
Perhaps the most instructive part of the memoir is his writing about the background to what is regarded as his masterpiece 'Ferdyduke'.
This is what he quotes Schultz as saying about 'Ferdyduke'."This means that in 'Ferdyduke'a shameful inner world is revealed which can only be confessed to and formulated with the greatest difficulty.Yet the world is not the Freudian world of instinct and the subconscious. It is the result of the following process: in our relations with other people we want to be cultivated, superior mature, so we use the language of maturity and we talk about, for instance, Beauty, Goodness, Truth.. But within our own confidential , intimate reality , we feel nothing but inadequacy, immaturity: and then our private ideals collapse, and we create a private mythology for ourselves, which is also basically a culture, but a shabby, inferior, culture, degraded to the level of our own inadequacy. "
In the end Gombrowicz summarizes. "I am almost ashamed of myself. Where have my assaults on Form got me? To Form. I broke it so much and so often that I became the writer whose subject is Form. That is my form and my definition.And todayI, a living individual am the servant of that official Gombrowicz whom I built with my own hands. I can only add to him. My former impulses, my gaffes, my dissonances, all this trying immaturity.. where has all that gone? In my old age life has become easier for me. I sail confidently between my contradictions and people listen to what I have to say Yes, yes.I've dug my hole. I've played my part. I am a servant. Whose? Gombrowicz's."
I unfortunately find this form of confession less than wholly illuminating .Gombrowiccz is not Shakespeare, and not Goethe. He also is not Borges.