COSMOS by Witold Gombrowicz


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Gombrowicz (Pornographia--1967) is one of the new mathematicians of the novel in which content yields to intent and is shaped almost entirely by technique. Cosmos, a $20,000 International Literary Prize winner, is a limbo of abstractions, trivialities, futilities. Within a very few pages it will be apparent that words, the same words, will appear again and again--""a strange repetition that gave increased significance"" and intensification. On a ""hot, buzzing, harassing day,"" the first person narrator, joining with another fugitive from Warsaw, comes to stay in the house of one Leo Wojtys; on the way there he had seen a hanged sparrow in a woods. Next he observes an arrow on the ceiling, and he attempts to relate these pendant eccentricities with each other, with what is to follow (a hanged cat, a hanged man) as well as other discernible but discrepant features--namely the mouths of two women in the household (one pure and beautiful, one disfigured and evil), or hands. Before long Gombrowicz has made his cosmos of visual associations and optical contrasts a way of seeing things in relation to each other--a ""way of reading some sort of order into the chaos"" of existence. But as he drones on, even with a ""fortissimo buzz,"" it is often as exasperating as it is interesting.

Pub Date: Aug. 21st, 1968
Publisher: Grove