Kind of Testament Paperback – Sep 1 2007
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Gombrowicz s art cannot be measured with the passing of decades. It is a monument of Polish prose. --Czeslaw Milosz
About the Author
Witold Gombrowicz is the single most important Polish prose writer of the 20th century. He is best known for his novels Ferdydurke(1937), Pornografia(1960) and Cosmos(1966) and his plays Princess Ivona(1935) and The Marriage(1953). Gombrowicz left Poland in 1939, lived in Argentina for over 20 years, and died in France. In 1967, he was awarded the Prix Formentor. This is Bacacay's first English language publication.
Alastair Hamilton is Professor of Radical Reformation History at the University of Amsterdam and the C.L. Thijssen-Schoute Professor of the History of Ideas at the University of Leiden.
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Nobody around here likes you because you want to know a reason for everything.
People who think Nietzsche is Polish have identified the Sorb group that was having a Reformation in the years following 1600. Repression in Catholic Poland made a pastor go to Germany where a long line of Nietzsche protestant pastors produced the father of the philosopher, who was a tutor for some princesses before Friedrich Wilhelm appointed him pastor of the church in which Fried Nietzsche was raised, but his family had to move from the parsonage into a house full of women relatives of the very religious state of mind after the death of Pastor Nietzsche from softening of the brain.
David Friedrich Strauss had some influence on the young Nietzsche who was more interested in Homer's Greek gods (he thought they died laughing when a jealous god tried to teach: you shall have no other gods before me), but DFS was a scholar at that time (the real Straussian genius), and a century after Hegel died, Witold Gombrowicz was in the shambles that can resemble ourselves when the world starts splitting everything that has mass and energy.
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.