legal authorities? These are the deliberately banal in- gredients that Witold Gombrowicz combines in his novel Cosmos. The story is presented through the. Cosmos and Pornografia: Two Novels [Witold Gombrowicz, Eric Mosbacher, Alastair Hamilton] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Here are. COSMOS. By Witold Gombrowicz. Translated by Danuta Borchardt. pp. Yale University Press. $ A Polish student, seeking peace and.

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C osmos by Witold Gombrowicz. Look at the various identities assumed. Student of law in Warsaw.

Young intellectual in Paris. Bank clerk in Buenos Aires. Respected author in the south of France. In a different age, Witold Gombrowicz might have enjoyed the privileged life of the scion of a wealthy Polish family.

Yet Polish life during the middle decades of the 20th Century was not conducive to such ambitions. Gom- browicz would instead earn his place in Polish literary history cosmow writing works banned by Nazis and suppressed by the Communists. His decision to wait out World War II in Argentina turned into a quarter-of-a-century sojourn, and his return to Europe was marked by a campaign of slurs and denunciations orchestrated by Polish authorities and the censorship of his works in his native country.

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But Gombrowicz responded to the ban with one of his one—his last will specified that none cosms his works could be published in his homeland unless his entire oeuvre was made available. Some two decades after his death from a heart attack, in at age 64, his books—widely known in underground editions and copies smuggled from other countries—were finally released in official versions in Poland.

Completing this turnaround, the Ministry of Culture of the Polish government declared thatthe his centenary of his birth, would be the “year of Gombrowicz. Essay by Ted Gioia The search for clues, and their interpretation— the piecemeal gimbrowicz of the crime from the accumulated evidence—are the most basic building blocks of the mystery genre.

But what happens if everything looks like a clue?

What if the difference blurs between evidence and the random entropy of day-to-day life? What if even the crime itself seems arbitrary or undefined, a non-descript, anomalous circumstance beyond the interest of any legal authorities? These are the deliberately banal in- gredients that Witold Gombrowicz combines in his witols Cosmos.


The story is presented through the cosmls of a young man, gombroqicz named Witold, who has taken up temporary lodging as a border in a countryside home, sharing a room with his melancholy companion Fuchs. Both are escaping an un- pleasant situation in the city— Witold running away from an unspecified family dispute in Warsaw, and Fuchs seeking a vacation from his boss Drozdowski and the mutual loathing that characterizes his relationship with his superior.

Shortly before their arrival, the two travelers come across a disturbing sight—a sparrow hanging on a bit of wire from a tree branch. In this instance, our two protagonists are haunted by the scene, and in the ensuing days ditold consider the possible causes and implications of the bird lynching. They have witild or no evidence to guide them. But both betray a tendency toward obsessive-compulsive behavior, and soon they are perceiving potential clues everywhere they look.

They see a mark on the ceiling of their room that might be in the shape of an arrow— perhaps placed there intentionally to assist them in their investigations.

Following the direction indicated by the arrow, they travel from their room to the hall and, eventually, outside, where they discover a piece of wood hanging from a piece of thread in a niche in the garden wall. The connection with the sparrow is vague and hypothetical, at best a weak analogy between two things suspended unexpectedly in out-of-the-way places.

Witlod our protagonists believe they may be unlocking some grand mystery. When you try to do both at once, you have hopelessly compromised your situation, and do neither effectively. They are so anxious to have a mystery to solve, that they are forced to create it themselves, albeit unwittingly—and in the process become what is known as, in the parlance of the constabulary, the perps.

This is an unusual scenario, but not without precedents in fiction. Jorge Luis Borges, in his story cosmoz and the Compass,” has described a series of murders that are, in a very real sense, created by the inquiry that seeks to solve them. If the investigator had taken a different approach, the crimes would have happened differently.

Two Men Try To Make Sense Of The ‘Cosmos’

In the detective story genre, this reversal of cause and effect is rare enough, but in real life our mental categories obviously dictate, a priorisome apparently “given” elements of the world that we experience.


I tend to be skeptical of glib assertions of the social construction of reality to borrow a once fashionable term —the kernel of wisdom here is often pushed too far—yet it is just as dangerous to assume that we are passive spectators at the pageant of our day-to-day lives, viewing the proceedings as in a theater where our preconceptions and mental constructs, individual or gombroeicz, hold no constitutive power.

A disturbing, almost claustrophobic quality pervades the work, and many readers will be deterred by the sheer tedium which ensues xosmos arbitrary details take on such a central role in a novel. Yet Gombrowicz succeeds in showing, albeit in an exaggerated, almost parodistic manner, a truth that may elude us in more conventional narratives—namely that our cosmks to systematize, organize, and impose meaning on events can drive the course of any story, whether on the page or in real life.

In Gomrowiczhe simply takes that rule to its most extreme, paradoxical implication —shocking us with the discovery that even cosmis observers can construct the crime by the very intensity of their scrutiny. Ted Gioia writes on music, literature and popular culture.

Cosmos: A Novel: Witold Gombrowicz, Danuta Borchardt: : Books

His latest book is Love Songs: Essay published August 23, N ew A ngles coemos an O ld G enre. P ostmodern M ystery. Postmodern Mystery is a web site devoted to experimental, unconventional and postmodern approaches to stories of mystery and suspense.

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