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5.0 out of 5 stars Neither porn nor graphic, this is proper readable alternative modern literature and a good story., 17 April 2014
H. Tee (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Pornografia (Paperback)
This is a Polish novel written in 1960 by Milan Kundera’s highly recommended author Gombrowicz. This is a new translation from the original Polish rather than the earlier English version which made errors in translating from a French translation.

It hardly needs stating but this is not a top-shelf adult book; there are no seedy sex scenes in the story. The title is the original Polish and rather reflects the vicarious voyeurism people undertake when they look upon other’s relationships –– in this case two guys become meddlingly titillated by a boy-girl, each 16 years old, relationship. The back drop is in a remote village during the German occupation of Poland.

Frederyk and Witold are middle aged new friends and travel to a village to get away from Warsaw. They meet a landowner’s family and his young daughter Henia, who we later discover is betrothed to the balding lawyer Vaclav. The farm-hand lad Karol is a life long friend of Henia and outwardly why don’t people see that Karol and Henia are destined, unknowingly to be in-love (or are they already?) and together – Fred and Wit are infatuated with this youthful virginal love and connive to play them. It later transpires the landowner and others are linked to the Resistance and a soldier-leader, Siemian, arrives to direct some actions. The pivotal dynamic of the story, and I won’t go into too much detail, is that there’s a murder and need for two unconnected killings – how will Fred and Wit react to engineer Vaclav, Karol and Henia to more emotive stirrings.

This is a very remarkable shortish story. The style is fairly unique in that though being a first person telling, it is made up of short lines separated by ‘…’, many occasions of ‘(boy)’ or ‘(girl)’ in the sentence when a noun isn’t needed and a certain retrospective existentialism that makes the reader very much part of the action. The style is novel yet very readable and I would recommend it as a speedy ‘alternative’ read. I can easily imagine this as a play and understand Gombrowicz is perhaps better know for this plays?. Here are some remarkable quotes to give you a flavour.

“the house overwhelmed us like an unspoiled vision from the now distant, prewar time…and in its untouched bygone state it seemed more real than our present time … while at the same moment the awareness that there was no truth to it, that is was inconsistent with reality , turned it into something akin to a stage set…”

“…the calm and sleepiness of this village…But it was as if our death was bending over sheet of water, evoking its own image, our entry’s past was reflecting itself in this eternal village and rumbling frenzy – a frenzy that was merely a mask – that only served to hide something else… But what? Whatever the meaning… of war, of revolution, violence, debauchery, degradation, despair, hope, struggle, fury, screaming, murder, slavery, disgrace, lousy dying, of cursing and of blessing… whatever was the meaning, I say, it was too weak to break through the crystal of this idyll”

“the Mass was collapsing in a terrible impotence… it was flagging.. no longer capable of begetting life! And this loss of meaning was a murder committed on the periphery, outside ourselves, outside the Mass, by way of a voiceless yet lethal commentary delivered by someone looking on from the outside”

I could go on but highly recommended.
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Pornografia by Witold Gombrowicz (Paperback - 1 Sep 1994)
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