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Ego

 

 

“I am the self made man of literature!”

Here is a selection of Witold Gombrowicz’s writings about Ego in his Diary:

Do not allow yourselves to be intimidated. The word ‘I’ is so basic and inborn, so full of the most palpable and thereby the most honest reality, as infallible as a guide and severe as a touchstone, that instead of sneering at it, it would be better to fall before your knees before it. I think rather that I am not yet fanatical enough in my concern with myself and that I did not know how, out of fear of other people, to surrender myself to this vocation with enough of a categorical ruthlessness to push the matter far enough. I am the most important and probably the only problem I have: the only one of my protagonists to whom I attach real importance.
Diary, 1954 [Trans. Vallee]
« My independence, self-sufficiency, or even frivolous impudence, my taking potshots at everyone, universal provocation and exclusive reliance on myself—all of this was a result of my social and geographical situation. I was forced not to pay attention to anyone because no one paid any attention to me—I was formed in almost complete isolation—I think that few literati have known such extreme isolation. In prewar Poland I was treated nonchalantly, almost ignored—then I was crushed by the war—then I was put on the censor’s index by the Communist regime—and here, in Argentina, I was deprived of even a literary café, of even a group of artist friend sin whose bosom every gypsy, innovator, avant-gardist can curl up in the cities of Europe.
I became bold because I had absolutely nothing to lose: neither honors, nor earnings, nor friends. I had to find myself anew and rely only on myself, because I could rely on no one else. My form is my solitude.
Diary, 1958 [Trans. Vallee] 
It never occurred to the majority of these émigré readers and critics—scholars of Polish literature, poets, writers, intellectuals—that one could speak about oneself in various ways, that his ‘I’ in the Diary is not the ‘I’ of a trivial egoist, or a naïve Narcissus, but of someone who realizes what is going on ... that if this is egotism, then it is a methodical, disciplined egotism testifying to a high and cold objectivity. They saw only the pattern. And furthermore the outcry: —Egotist! Conceited! Tactless! Aggravating, angry, unlikable!
It is true that Gombrowicz sometimes teased the emigration on purpose. —I tease it so that it will not throw itself at me —he once said; for he claimed that Stupidity is an exceptional beast, one that cannot bite if it is yanked hard by the tail.
Diary, 1960 [Trans. Vallee]