Witold Gombrowicz: Kosmos (Cosmos)
Gombrowicz’s final novel is narrated by a narrator called Witold. Witold has a row with his father and decides to go to the country to study for his exams. There he meets an acquaintance, Fuchs, an office worker seeking some peace and quiet for his holiday. They decide to stay in a boarding house, run by the Wojtys family. Strange things start happening, starting with a sparrow that has been hanged from a tree, which they see just before they reach the boarding house. The Wojtys family consists of Mr. Leo Wojtys, a retired bank manager, his wife, Kulka, their daughter, Lena, her husband, Louis, and the maid, Katasia. When they recount the tale of the sparrow, Louis mentions that he had only the previous week seen a chicken hanged. But soon Witold starts making connections. He makes a connection between Katasia’s”sinister” mouth (injured in a car accident) and Lena’s normal mouth, between a crack in the dining room ceiling and an arrow, which he later finds in the ceiling of his and Fuchs’ room. More strange things appear – animals hanged and, eventually, a human, and strange signs which may be random but may not. Of course, Gombrowicz is poking fun at humans’ obsession with finding meaning in the seemingly random and arbitrary and, of course, we never do really find out whether these events were random or arbitrary or whether there was a meaning behind them but Gombrowicz’s quirky but dark novel is certainly a fascinating read.
First published 1965 by Instytut Literacki,
First English translation 1966 by Calder & Boyars/Grove Press
Translated by Alastair Hamilton (from the French) (Calder & Boyars/Grove Press); Danuta Borchardt (Grove Press)