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September 2014
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WITOLD GOMBROWICZ

Witold Gombrowicz (1904-1969) is recognized by international theatre artists and scholars as one of the 20th century's greatestplaywright/novelists. Under the Communists much of his work - novels, plays, and diaries written mostly during self-imposed exile in Argentina (which he happened to be visiting when the Germans invaded Poland) and France - could not be published in Poland for decades, nor his plays performed until the mid-1970s. With biting humor Gombrowicz attacked the restrictions of social convention. His works rankled the establishment with their irreverent, dissident views and homoerotic content, serving up a lively blend of religious satire, class struggle, and scatological humor. From the viewpoint of philosophy, Gombrowicz is intriguing as a thinker whose concepts show the beginnings of philosophical ideas and methodologies popular during the second half of the twentieth century, from existentialism to deconstruction.


The works of Witold Gombrowicz have been translated into more than 30 languages and staged in over 30 countries, yet long remained little-known and rarely-produced in English, despite Gombrowicz's influence on better-known Polish theatre artists such as Tadeusz Kantor. Gombrowicz's most famous play, Ivona, Princess of Burgundia, was staged, among others, by Ingmar Bergman for Sweden's National Theatre and his play The Marriage, by the Comédie Française in Paris.

In an interview in Time Out New York, Allen Kuharski, responsible for a highly successful English version of an already classic theatrical adaptation of Gombrowicz's best-known novel, Ferdydurke, described Gombrowicz as "Poland's counterpart to Jean Genet, but with Joe Orton's sense of humor. Gombrowicz's most powerful political weapon is his humor." In his review of Ferdydurke, Village Voice critic Charles McNulty called Gombrowicz's works "unbeatable sources of absurdist adrenaline." Louis Begley, the Washington Post's critic calls Gombrowicz an "eccentric genius".