POSSESSED by Witold Gombrowicz


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First published aa a pseudonymous newspaper serial in 1939 in Warsaw, this ""gothic novel"" fits snugly within the requirements of the genre--an old castle, a tale of bad blood, ghastly apparitions. But it is also, recognizably, a vehicle for Gombrowicz's abiding themes: impersonation, the transmissibility of evil, the duality of sin within paired bodies, the cynicism of immaturity, the urge to murder. The story is set around a Polish country castle, Myslotch, now inhabited by a feeble old prince with a painting collection more valuable than he suspects. In the castle is one haunted room, where the spirit of the prince's unacknowledged dead son regularly causes an uproar (a writhing towel on a hook is the ghost's calling-card). And also involved in all this--aside from a venial secretary to the prince, an art historian, and a clairvoyant--are two young Warsaw tennis players, Maya and Walchak, who are staying at a nearby pension: they fall in love, they find their identities merging, and they mount up a tally of evil and irrational acts done more or less unconsciously--as if to objectify the malign energies of the Myslotch castle's ghost. It's a drily skillful book, satisfying in a cerebral and loosely connected way (not for the usual ""gothic"" audience). But--as with Gombrowicz's most renowned novels, Ferdydurke and Pornographia--the level of appreciation here will depend largely on the reader's knowledge and acceptance of the author's pessimistic philosophical system.

Pub Date: Aug. 23rd, 1981
Publisher: Marion Boyars (99 Main St., Salem, NH 03079)