Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Sto lat!

It's the 100th anniversary of the birth of Witold Gombrowicz, "the most important twentieth-century novelist most Western readers have never heard of." Poland is celebrating all week long by playing chess and staging readings.

Even children are in on the act — the festivities join forces with a national campaign known as "Cala Polska czyta dzieciom" ("All of Poland is Reading to Its Children").

The Literary Saloon has marked the occasion with kind words.

Biography and links (including to online texts).

Read "The Rat."

See Witold Gombrowicz, and to Hell with Culture:

Gombrowicz raged against what he saw as the aristocratic conservatism of Polish culture, the formality of men bowing and kissing ladies’ hands in greeting, the general insistence on how Poland’s grand destiny had been sidetracked by a century of partition and occupation, and perhaps most of all the uncritical reverence for such cultural heroes as Copernicus (of questionable nationality), Mickiewicz (the national poet, actually born in Lithuania), and Chopin (half-Polish, who spent most of his life in France).

Reviews of Trans-Atlantyk at The Literary Saloon and Bookslut:

As Gombrowicz sees it, man is torn between submitting to the will of society, which robs him of all freedom, and following his own will, which entails breaking with society altogether. Neither extreme is attainable, so we are stuck murkily in between.

His (hard-to-find) Diaries absolutely wowed me.

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