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Introduction

 

 “I lapsed into something like a trembling incredulity over two mouths having nothing in common yet having something in common, this fact overwhelmed me and actually plunged me even deeper into unbelievable distraction—and it was all suffused with the night, as if steeped in yesterday, murky.”

Witold Gombrowicz envisioned Cosmos as a novel on the formation of reality, as well as a kind of police story.

“And I fear Form as if it were a wild animal!”
—A Kind of Testament: Interviews with Dominique de Roux [Trans. Hamilton]
JPG - 18.5 ko
Drawing by Vladimiro Elvieri.


“Forced? Artificial? Those who say that have not noticed that Cosmos is not an ordinary novel which tells a story, let us say a tragic love story. The main theme of the novel is the very formation of this story, in other words the formation of a reality ... in it we see how a certain reality endeavors to arise from our associations, indolently, awkwardly ... in a jungle of misunderstandings and erroneous interpretations. And at each moment the awkward construction is lost in chaos. Cosmos is a novel that creates itself, as it is written.”
—A Kind of Testament: Interviews with Dominique de Roux [Trans. Hamilton]
JPG - 21.6 ko
“A hung neck,” anonymous drawing.


Begun in Buenos Aires in February 1961, Cosmos will be finished in Vence in December 1964. The Literary Institute, the Polish emigrant publishing house in Paris, will publish the novel in 1965. Cosmos will appear in Poland in 1986 in Volume V of the Complete Works, Ed. Wydawnictwo Literackie, Krakow.
The first translation of Cosmos, from Polish to French, was completed by Georges Sédir, and was published by Maurice Nadeau in his collection “Les Lettres nouvelles”, Ed. Denoël, in 1966.
Against his usual habits, Witold Gombrowicz did not modify his text on the occasion of its first translation.
Cosmos was crowned by the jury of the International Literary Prize (Prix Formentor) in May 1967, two years before Witold Gombrowicz’s death.

JPG - 12.5 ko
Drawing by Joanna Remus.


“I said again: ‘Berg ...’ but more softly, more calmly, and my intuition did not mislead me, he looked t me with respect, brushed something off, mumbled:
“‘I see you are a bembergman!’
“He then asked me matter-of-factly:
“‘Do you bemberg?’”


One of the central characters of Cosmos, the proprietor of the family pension, Leo Wojtys, plays with language. He invents mysterious words, most notably “berg.” He also cites proverbs and even Latinizes certain words. This represents a pastiche of “the spoiling of language, the spoiling of Polish” according to Witold Gombrowicz’s translator Konstanty “Kot” Jeleński.

JPG - 10.9 ko
Spanish edition. Drawing by Roland Topor.

 

 

“Remarkable. A hanged bird. A hanged sparrow. The eccentricity of it clamored with a loud voice and pointed to a human hand that had torn into the thicket—but who?”

“Remarkable. A hanged bird. A hanged sparrow. The eccentricity of it clamored with a loud voice and pointed to a human hand that had torn into the thicket—but who?”