Witold Gombrowicz

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Witold Gombrowicz in Vence
Bust in Kielce

Witold Marian Gombrowicz (born August 4, 1904 in Małoszyce , Congress Poland , Russian Empire ; † July 25, 1969 in Vence , France ) was one of the most important Polish writers of the 20th century. He lived in exile from the age of 34 .


Witold Gombrowicz's grave in Vence

Witold Gombrowicz came from the small Polish landed nobility and was the youngest of four siblings. From 1911 on he grew up in Warsaw . In 1927, he completed his law studies at the University of Warsaw from. In July 1939, shortly before the start of the Second World War , he went on a boat trip to Buenos Aires in Argentina on board the MS "Chrobry" - the then newest Polish trans-Atlantic liner (11,442 GRT). Because of the outbreak of war, he did not return to Poland and stayed in Buenos Aires. He lived from work as an employee of the Polish bank Banco Polaco ; however, he considered writing to be his real life's work. In 1963 he returned to Europe (on board the Italian 21,000-ton turbine steamer FEDERICO C), but not to the People's Republic of Poland , but to Cannes in France. Thanks to a grant from the Ford Foundation , Gombrowicz went to West Berlin as artist in residence for a year in 1963 , at the same time as Ingeborg Bachmann . He then settled in Vence in the south of France and married Rita Labrosse in 1968 . In 1969 Witold Gombrowicz died of complications from asthma . His grave is in Vence.


Gombrowicz's early work, the volume of short stories Pamiętnik z okresu dojrzewania (German: Memoirs from the Age of Tire ) from 1933, was completely misunderstood by Polish critics. One of the motifs of the novel Ferdydurke , published in 1938, is therefore the accounting for the ignorance of the critics, the “intellectual aunts” or “cultural aunts”, as Gombrowicz calls them, who accompanied the writer throughout his life. Since then, Gombrowicz has endeavored to enlighten readers and critics of his intentions. Gombrowicz provided each of the three editions of Trans-Atlantyk published during the author 's lifetime (1951 (excerpts) and 1953 in Paris , 1957 in Poland) with a new foreword. In order to gain an understanding of himself and his work, he began to write his diary ( Dziennik ) in 1953 , which appeared regularly in the Paris magazine Kultura . Years later it was described by literary scholars as his most important work. In the 1960s, two more novels were written, Pornografia (1960) (different German editions: Verführung und Pornographie ) and Kosmos (1965) (different German editions: Indizien und Kosmos ). By this time at the latest, Gombrowicz's literary importance was also recognized internationally.

In 1953, in the People's Republic of Poland, Gombrowicz was denounced by Deputy Prime Minister Józef Cyrankiewicz for having taken up the arguments of German chauvinists with zeal.


Gombrowicz grants his characters, as well as himself, the right to individuality and intellectual freedom, regardless of any convention. He entitles every individual to lifelong “immaturity”, which for him symbolizes the defense against the “mature” forms of life (prevailing ideologies, religions, nationalisms, social norms) and art (literary and artistic conventions). With this program, Gombrowicz addresses topics that Jean-Paul Sartre summarized a short time later in the term existentialism .

Although Gombrowicz lived in emigration from his departure in 1939 until his death , he tirelessly grappled with the problems of his home country. As a Pole, he was of the opinion that the Polish tradition of all things stood in the way of the intellectual development of his home country. With his rejection of Poland's heavy romantic legacy, he called on his compatriots to free themselves from old Polishism through individual and not just collective actions. Critics saw this motif as an attack on Polish tradition and was one of the reasons for Gombrowicz's long-term publication ban in Poland.

In 2013, his widow Rita announced that he had secretly kept another diary under the title Kronos , in which, among other things , he had precisely recorded his sex life .

the novel

As a novelist, Gombrowicz continues the tradition of the comic novel (in the sense of François Rabelais , Miguel de Cervantes and Henry Fieldings ). The existential problems he deals with therefore appear irrelevant and funny, which is often misunderstood. In this way, Gombrowicz abolishes the, in his opinion, powerless art of modernism and especially of the novel, which he considers sterile, snobbish and dishonest towards reality.

The form and the "unform"

Gombrowicz not only breaks with conventions and rigid forms in his works in terms of content, but also transfers it to the form and language of the work. He experiments with historically proven literary genres, mixes them up and translates them into his personal language. The resulting form is an “unform”, his novels become “ anti- novels ”.


His works have been published in Paris since 1951, in Germany since 1959, and in Poland only since 1986.


  • 1967: Prix Formentor
  • The Polish Sejm declared 2004 to be Witold Gombrowicz's year in memory of its hundredth birthday.



  • Pamiętnik z okresu dojrzewania ( Memoirs from the Age of Tire ) (1933).
  • BAKAKAJ (dt. Bacacay ) (1957) (second, improved and increased by adding two new stories output of memoirs from the period of the tire )


  • Ferdydurke (1938) (German Ferdydurke , 1960)
  • Opętani (1939) ( Eng . The possessed , 1989)
  • Trans-Atlantyk (1953) (German Trans-Atlantik , 1964)
  • Pornografia (1960) (German seduction , 1963, as well as pornography , 1984)
  • Kosmos (1965) (German evidence , 1966 and Kosmos 2005)


  • Iwona Księżniczka Burgunda ( Ger.Yvonne , the Burgundy Princess ) (1935)
  • Ślub ( Eng . The Wedding ) (1953)
  • Operetka (German operetta ) (1966)
  • Historia (Operetka) (German history ) (1950/51 and 1958/60)

Other writings

  • Dziennik , 1953–1956 (German diary )
  • Dziennik , 1957-1961
  • Dziennik , 1961-1966
  • Testament, Entretiens avec Dominique de Roux ( A kind of testament ) (1969)
  • Wędrówki po Argentynie (German Argentine migrations and other writings ) (1977)
  • Kronos (2013)
  • Berlin Notes , translated by Olaf Kühl . edition fotoTAPETA, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-940524-24-9
  • Sacrileges: from the diaries 1953 to 1967 , from the Polish by Olaf Kühl, Eichborn, Die Andere Bibliothek series , Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 978-3-8218-4509-8

Complete edition

  • Collected works in 11 volumes . Fischer Taschenbuch, Frankfurt am Main 1998, ISBN 3-596-13895-7
  • Collected Works . 13 volumes, Hanser, Munich 1988

Film adaptations


See also


Web links

Commons : Witold Gombrowicz  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Marek Klecel: Poland between East and West: Polish essays of the 20th century. 1995, quoted in: J. Bak, K. Kaser, M. Prochazka (eds.): Self-image and external images of the peoples of Eastern Europe. (= Wieser Encyclopedia of the European East. 18). Klagenfurt 2006, pp. 608-611. ( online in the " Encyclopedia of the European East (EEO)" of the University of Klagenfurt )
  2. kultura.onet.pl ( Memento of the original from May 9, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / kultura.onet.pl
  3. The English version of Diary can be searched in Google books , e.g. B. according to certain terms, names etc. The author has not dated his entries, they are only sorted according to the year.
  4. Michał Dobrzyński - Operetka in the Archives of Music Theater Now, accessed on July 3, 2017.