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Bacacay: History and composition of the collection

 The collection Memoirs from a Time of Immaturity, published in 1933, became Bacacay in 1957. The collection of stories Memoirs From a Time of Immaturity was the first of Witold Gombrowicz’s books to be published (Ed. Rój, Warsaw, 1933).

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1933 : Witold Gombrowicz’s literary debut: Memoirs From a Time of Immaturity.


This first edition, never published again in this form, contained seven stories:This first edition, never published again in this form, contained seven stories:
Lawyer Kraykowski’s Dancer, The Memoirs of Stefan Czarniecki, A Premeditated CrimeDinner at Countess Pavahoke’s, Virginity, Adventures, The Events on the Banbury, On the Kitchen Steps, The Rat, The Banquet

To avoid the misinterpretations about the publication of the Memoirs From a Time of Immaturity that Witold Gombrowicz experienced in 1933, he decided to change the title of the collection.  When republishing the expanded volume in 1957, after considering several titles (including Adventures and Variations), Witold Gombrowicz finally chose Bacacay—because the word had nothing to do with the contents.

Title

Bacacay is the name of a street in one of the Buenos Aires suburbs Gombrowicz inhabited in 1939, early in his time in Argentina. In Polish, Witold Gombrowicz transformed the original spelling of the street name from “Bacacay” (the Indian name of a battle) to “Bakakaï” in order to aid its proper pronunciation in that language

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The plaque on Bacacay Street in Buenos Aires today. Photo by Christian Leprette.

Witold Gombrowicz’s stories were published once again as a collection in Poland in 1957 (Wydawnictwo Literackie, Krakow). This time, however, they appeared under the title Bacacay.

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Bacacay: The first Polish edition, 1957.


This edition, reworked and augmented by the author, remains the definitive version of the collection. This edition, reworked and augmented by the author, remains the definitive version of the collection. It contains twelve stories, five of which were added to the original seven of Memoirs. These additional stories include two that had already previously appeared as part of Witold Gombrowicz’s novel Ferdydurke (Philidor’s Child Within and Philibert’s Child Within) as well as:
On the Kitchen Steps, The Rat, The Banquet

 

“Great! I’ve written something stupid, but I haven’t signed a contract with anyone to produce solely wise and perfect works.
”Preface to The Child Runs Deep in Philidor. [As appears in Borchardt’s translation of Ferdydurke the title of this story is translated as Philidor’s Child Within in Johnston’s English translation of Bacacay.
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Two Italian editions, the Brazilian edition, and the Turkish edition.
 
Immaturity

In the preface to Memoirs From a Time of Immaturity, published in 1933, Witold Gombrowicz explains his position on immaturity, a major theme of his work. This preface was pulled from the collection just before publication:
It is clear that if the reader is wiser, the book will also reveal itself to be wiser; the more stupid the reader, the more sterile he is, and the more stupid the book; it is possible that the book itself can be more stupid. As for my vision of the world, which is a sinister, erotico-senusal and frankly monstrous one, I will repeat it once more: it is not necessary to be frightened. I do not deny it; it constitutes my legitimate propriety, and who among you does not know the benign complexes, the revolts and the troubles of this difficult period that is maturation—the affectation and the ‘frivolous’ distance that characterize it? I sincerely envy those individuals who, from the age of thirteen, attain the plenitude of harmony and reach a psychological equilibrium when facing contemporary problems. A benevolent reader will perceive, however, that the title the present work is precisely ‘Memoirs from a time of immaturity,’ and not ‘Diary from a time of immaturity.’ Hence, he will draw the conclusion that my soul has long been free enough from this swamp to look around at the world.Witold Gombrowicz, Unpublished preface from Memoirs from a Time of Immaturity, 1933 [Trans. Dubowski]