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Cosmos and Pornografia [Paperback]

Witold Gombrowicz
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.03
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Book Description

23 Mar 1994
Here are two major works by the famed Polish novelist and dramatist Witold Gombrowicz. The first, Cosmos, a metaphysical thriller, revolves around an absurd investigation. It is set in provincial Poland and narrated by a seedy, pathetic, and witty student, who is charming and appalling by turns, and whose voice is dense with the richly palpable description that characterizes Gombrowicz's writing. The second, Pornografia, explores the sinister effect the young can have on the old. To serve their own secret eroticism, two aging intellectuals encourage a young couple to commit murder. Although the adolescents are the weapons used to commit the crime, the four become conspirators before the deed is done.

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Cosmos and Pornografia + A Guide to Philosophy in Six Hours and Fifteen Minutes (Margellos World Republic of Letters)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 362 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press / Atlantic Monthly Press; Reissue edition (23 Mar 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802151590
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802151599
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 13.7 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 171,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
BUT let me tell you about another, even more curious adventure. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Unexpected 12 Aug 2013
Format:Paperback
I like a first person narrator - you know where you are with them, even if they're of the unreliable variety. (Don't read this for plot!) Pleasing mitteleuropaisch comic opera ambience. Cosmos may have been translated from Polish via French AND German versions, but it reads ebulliently, with an almost Irish flavour - a fun mix of Beckett, Joyce and Flann O'Brien? No, forget Joyce. But surprising! And Pornografia in the wings.. Pornografia?!!!
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17 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intellectual Thriller 26 Aug 2003
Format:Paperback
Cosmos concerns man's need for order, or as Gombrowicz calls it form. So strong is this drive that the protagonists of this novel construct 'meaning', on the flimsiest of evidence, where there is perhaps none. Certain motifs crystallise in the minds of the characters and become points of obsessive fixation by which they orientate themselves. Why these motifs and not others seems to be irrelevant as all the characters become fixated on some image. This arbitrary filtration of phenomena seems to be a psychological necessity by excluding excessive irrelevant detail (chaos) but at the cost of introducing systematic distortion. This distortion seems to constitute reality for Gombrowicz, or at least for his characters. Apart from that this is also one of the funniest books I've ever read.
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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
79 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For example 17 Oct 2001
By J. Bielawski - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I'm joining the chorus of those asking for a direct translation. Let me quote the opening paragraph of the novel I translated from the original as a quick test:
"But let me tell you another, even more curious adventure...
Sweat, Fuks walks on, me behind him, trouser-legs, heels, sand, we plod on, plod on, earth, ruts, clod, glitter from glassy pebbles, glare, the heat buzzes, shimmering, everything black with sunlight, houses, fences, fields, woods, this road, this march, where from, how, it's a long story, to tell you the truth I was sick of my father and mother, my family in general, besides I wanted to do away with at least one exam, also to try a change, leave it all, live somewhere far away for a while. So I took off to Zakopane, I walk through Krupówki, think where the heck to get a cheap pension when I run into Fuks, his red-haired faded blond mug, protruding, his gaze pasted with apathy, but he was happy, and I was happy, how are you, what are you doing here, I'm looking for a room, so am I, I have an address - he said - of a small manor-house where it's cheaper as it's a long way out, almost bare countryside. So we walk, trouser-legs, heels in sand, the road and the heat, I look down, earth and sand, the pebbles sparkle, one, two, one, two, trouser-legs, heels, sweat, sleepiness in tired eyes from the train and nothing besides this pacing from down below. He stopped."

If you have the book handy you'll notice how the published English version breaks up Gombrowicz's long meandering sentences and how it flattens certain phrases ("gaze pasted with apathy" becomes "fishlike eyes") not to mention misspelling one of the main character's names. Another example, a short one this time:

"...how many times have I told her, Kata, don't be lazy, don't be afraid, go to the surgeon, get the operation done, get that appearance of yours regulated..."

becomes: "...how many times have I told her not to put it off any longer but to go and see the surgeon and have it done...".
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Internal Cosmos 28 Sep 2001
By Robert Bezimienny - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
These novels map internal states, tenors of mind, and they do so with courage, dramatising the internal by portraying fantastic events in the external world. 'Cosmos' focuses (obsessively) on a conjuction of paranoia and an irrational insistence for connections on the part of its young protagonist. 'Pornographia' shows elders living vicariously through the apetites of the young.
*
Both novels seem to satirise the basic premises of the bourgeois comedy of manners, being set in country households filled with characters respectful of middle-class ideals, only to unveil irrational psychological forces close by the surface. It is hard to imagine either novel being written without the author living through the horror of the Second World War - rationality itself and, more specifically, the veneration of tradition and culture are under attack - how can Gombrowicz have faith in such concepts when he has witnessed the unthinkable brutality initiated by so-called civilised, rational individuals, most notably by those inhabiting arguably the most civilised and rational of nations? Settings and presuppositions that functioned admirably in the work of Thomas Mann, or at least stumbled by in Chekov, now not only fail dismally, but engender a grotesque horror show.
*
Similar responses arose after the First World War, most persistently in the guise of surrealism. Their effects linger to this day - a suspicion of the merits of rationality still inhabits critical thinking, and few would subscribe to the idea that education and cultural refinement guarantee the moral and ethical worthiness of a person (thus we have the archetypal psychopath who listen to Beethoven as in 'A Clockwork Orange', and numerous other related examples inhabiting popular culture (the villains in James Bond movies, or even the Rickman character in 'Die Hard'). Gombrowicz lends his own unique voice to this chorus.
*
The literary style remains readable despite certain difficulties, possibly arising from translation. It is also very humorous, in the way that the Samuel Beckett of 'Watt' or 'Molloy' is humorous, and indeed Gombrowicz's assault on the mechanisms of rationality is reminiscent to that found in 'Watt'.
*
For me, these works appeal in the similar ways to those of Bruno Schulz, Stig Dagerman, Kafka, John Hawkes, Celine, and, as mentioned, Beckett, but beyond the similarities these novels are something special and inimitable. Hope this is something of a guide for what lies in store for you.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excelent. But a word of advice. 9 Feb 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Pornographia and Cosmos are perhaps two of the most fascinating novels of the twentieth century, but I certainly agree with reviewers stating that the English translation does poor justice to the original. I strongly suggest the French translation by Gallimard, for people who can read French. Otherwise, patience is required until a better English translation arrives.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Time for better translations! 2 Aug 2000
By Adam Gajlewicz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Cosmos and Pornografia are probably the best, and certainly the most exquisite and profound novels, written by this eminent Polish existentialist. However, it is most regrettable that these exceptional books were translated into English from French and German (Mosbacher and Hamilton)and, as such, have nothing, or almost nothing, in common with the Polish original versions. I hope I am not doing the translators much injustice by asserting that it is time for new translations by someone who knows Polish and can read and understand Gombrowicz in the original. This is the only way of making it possible for English and American readers to appreciate the genuine, authentic Gombrowicz, still very unknown to the English-speaking world.....
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Time for better translations! 2 Aug 2000
By Adam Gajlewicz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Cosmos and Pornografia are probably the best, and certainly the most exquisite and profound novels, written by this eminent Polish existentialist. However, it is most regrettable that these exceptional books were translated into English from French and German (Mosbacher and Hamilton)and, as such, have nothing, or almost nothing, in common with the Polish original versions. I hope I am not doing the translators much unjustice by asserting that it is time for new translations by someone who knows Polish and can read and understand Gombrowicz in the original. This is the only way of making it possible for English and American readers to appreciate the genuine, authentic Gombrowicz, still very unknown to the English-speaking world.....
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