Encounters with Polish Literature (Episode 3) — Witold Gombrowicz with Bożena Shallcross
Witold Gombrowicz (1904-69) was born to a family of the Polish gentry, and after writing his play, Princess Ivona of Burgundia (1935) and publishing his major novel, Ferdydurke (1937), he was invited as a writer to report on the maiden voyage of the cruise ship, Chrobry in 1939. While aboard, the Germans invaded Poland, marking the outbreak of the Second World War. He disembarked in Argentina, unable to return to Poland during the war and after the transition to Communism. He worked in a bank, associating with writers in Buenos Aires and continuing to write novels and plays in Polish as well as his Diary in which he engaged in a struggle for self-definition in the face of conservative ideas of Polish nationalism among his fellow émigrés. In 1963 he returned to Europe on a Ford Foundation grant, first to Berlin, and then to France where he was embraced by Paris intellectuals, writing his last novel, Cosmos (1965), and play, Operetta (1966). This episode of “Encounters” focuses on the novels, Ferdydurkeand Trans-Atlantyk (1953 and 1957), and we examine his conflict with what he saw as ossified forms of cultural life among the Polish gentry, and his attempts to maintain his identity as a Polish exile in Buenos Aires and as a gay man in a closeted era.
For students interested in advanced study of Polish literature and culture, Prof. Shallcross describes the academic program in Polish studies at the University of Chicago.
Encounters with Polish Literature is a new video series for anyone interested in literature and the culture of books and reading. Each month, host David A. Goldfarb will present a new topic in conversation with an expert on that author or book or movement in Polish literature.
Learn more about this episode, and see the biography of the guest on the Polish Cultural Institute New York's website. The linked page includes a bibliography of works in English by and about Gombrowicz: Episode 3.