In an autobiographical piece, A Kind of Testament, he wrote that his family had lived for years in Lithuania on an estate between Vilnius and Kaunas but were displaced after his grandfather was accused of participating in the January Uprising of He was less than diligent in his studies, but his time in France brought him in constant contact with other young intellectuals. He also visited the Mediterranean. When Gombrowicz returned to Poland he began applying for legal positions with little success. In the s he started writing. He soon rejected the legendary novel, whose form and subject matter were supposed to manifest his "worse" and darker side of nature.
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Sep 24, s. How many meanings can one gleam from hundreds of weeds, colds of dirt, and other trifles? Polish author Wiltold Gombrowicz explores the notions of order in a seemingly random, chaotic world in his novel Cosmos. Gombrowicz exposes the human desire to create order from the randomness that beleaguers their existence in order to view the world as a safe, functionary society in which they are mature and essential cogs instead of a chaotic void in which we are merely immature and irrelevant.
The plot of this novel is highly secondary, and consists of the narrator, a college youth on holiday named Witold, accompanying a classmate to an out of the way pension in order to study in peace. In the darkness of the forest, they discover a hung sparrow, which sets off a seemingly connected or are they?
Through this sleuthing, the reader is invited into the feverish mind of Wiltold the narrator to question the nature of signs and deciphering symbols from randomness. Do they really stumble onto covert codes, or is it the human desire to construct meaning? The sentences are long and rambling, meandering through a convoluted psyche that is troubled by a growing paranoia. It takes a good portion of this short novel for the reader to get a firm footing, and unlike the powerful imagery and poetry of Pornografia, or the absurd Monty Python-esk comedy and literary investigations of Ferdydurke, Cosmos is intentionally bland.
These tidbits of the bizarre are constantly reexamined in his mind, ordered and picked up one by one to turn over, caress, and put back as if they were treasured items in a collection, done so an overwhelming multitude of times that the repetition is very likely to chafe on the reader. For being short in length, the novel slogs forward through the muck of mangled reality and by the time the reader reaches the incredible and exciting conclusion, the book may have worn thin on their patience.
Despite the few cumbersome aspects of this novel, Gombrowicz shines with his acute sense of subtly and paranoia. The narrator is constantly on the lookout for associations, often staggering when another character mentions something offhanded that can vaguely associate with the thoughts in his head. The characters in the novel crave order, desire some map composed of meaning and method to abate our fear of randomness and chaos.
They make order in their lives with marriage, religions, and divine a clear explanation for any of their actions.
The chaos of nature threatens their worldview. Here is where we also find the priest, lost in the wilderness as Gombrowicz takes his standard jabs at religions method of proclaiming meaning in a meaningless world. Here is where the true nature of the title, Cosmos, a word never used in the novel is exposed.
To Gombrowicz, the cosmos, the universe, is a chaotic void deplete of meaning. This notion, expressed best in Pornografia: A Novel when narrator Witold observes an atheist praying in church and drops into a vision of the church floating aimlessly in a void, seems to have finally grown into a full-fledged theme in Cosmos, pointed and poked at but never overtly mentioned. The major theme from Ferdydurke , that of immaturity, has also blossomed in this novel.
The adults, those who are looked at as pillars of society and the family, most notably the bank manager, is a mere buffoon who uses childish wordplay and singsongy phrases. All these onanstic and detective themes of the novel come together for a startling conclusion that really makes all the pieces fit together and hum. Cosmos is a wonderful read, difficult and annoying at times, but full of thoughts to ponder and reflect over.
It would be very much advisable to have read his earlier novels first to fully appreciate the ideas at play here and to draw many of the connections left open for the reader, plus I cannot recommend many novels more highly than I do Ferdydurke.