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Virginity

Dziewictwo

 

“How very wonderful nature is, that something like virginity is even permissible in this vale of tears.”

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Alina Czyżewska in the solo piece Virginity, directed by Przemek Wiśniewski, Teatr Kreatury, Gorzów, Poland, 2002.


Written in 1928, this short story was first published in 1933 in the collection Memoirs from a Time of Immaturity (1933, Ed. Rój, Warsaw). Like the other stories in Witold Gombrowicz’s first book, Virginity was re-published in 1957 in a new, expanded version of the collection entitled Bacacay (Wydawnictwo Literackie, Kraków). In its newer version, the story saw numerous cuts by Witold Gombrowicz.

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Alina Czyżewska in Virginity, Teatr Kreatury, 2002.


Witold Gombrowicz wrote a preface to his 1933 collection of stories, which was never published. Here, he included a presentation of each of the seven texts in the collection. On Virginity:

“In ‘Virginity,’ Paul (a moderately successful virgin) and the foolhardy Alice dream, imagine things, sexually transform the entire world, and end up, rather poorly, gnawing bones before the kitchen. We are not sure what it’s all about. Perhaps nature is playing tricks on them because of their too-pure attitude in life. It’s also a question of the temptation that a troubled, agitated life always represents—a poor girl, pushed by hunger, steals bread rolls, and has a stone thrown at her by the shopkeeper. Alice, who can eat as many rolls as she wants, sees in this gesture a loving caress, for she suffers from another hunger: She is starving for love like the other girl is starving for bread.”“In ‘Virginity,’ Paul (a moderately successful virgin) and the foolhardy Alice dream, imagine things, sexually transform the entire world, and end up, rather poorly, gnawing bones before the kitchen. We are not sure what it’s all about. Perhaps nature is playing tricks on them because of their too-pure attitude in life. It’s also a question of the temptation that a troubled, agitated life always represents—a poor girl, pushed by hunger, steals bread rolls, and has a stone thrown at her by the shopkeeper. Alice, who can eat as many rolls as she wants, sees in this gesture a loving caress, for she suffers from another hunger: She is starving for love like the other girl is starving for bread.”
A Summary Explanation,” Varia [Trans. Dubowski]
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he Virginity episode in Jerzy Jarocki’s Błądzenie (Peregrinations), Teatr Narodowy, Warsaw, 2005.
 
“If someone told me that this story conveys a certain haziness, I would not contradict him. It does have something vague, imprecise, diffused, from which must emanate a perfume of springtime, of youth. One must perceive an underlying flow of premonition and desires. If this is not the case, the story is worth little.”
A Summary Explanation”, Varia[Trans. Dubowski]
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Catalan edition of “Virginity,” 1970

Excerpt: Skirt, blouse, little parasol, prattle, holy naïveté dictated by instinct—these are delightful, but they aren’t for me. As a man I can neither clasp my arms together nor sully myself innocently. Quite the opposite: honor, courage, dignity, taciturnity, these are the attributes of male virginity. But I ought to maintain in relation to the world a certain male naivety constituting an analogy to virginal naivety. I must take everything in with a clear gaze. I must eat lettuce. Lettuce is more virginal than radishes—why, can anyone guess? Perhaps because it’s more bitter. But then lemon is even less virginal than radishes. Excerpt: Skirt, blouse, little parasol, prattle, holy naïveté dictated by instinct—these are delightful, but they aren’t for me. As a man I can neither clasp my arms together nor sully myself innocently. Quite the opposite: honor, courage, dignity, taciturnity, these are the attributes of male virginity. But I ought to maintain in relation to the world a certain male naivety constituting an analogy to virginal naivety. I must take everything in with a clear gaze. I must eat lettuce. Lettuce is more virginal than radishes—why, can anyone guess? Perhaps because it’s more bitter. But then lemon is even less virginal than radishes. On the male side too there exist marvelous secrets, matters that are locked up with seven seals—the flag and death beneath the flag. What further? Faith is a great mystery, blind faith. A godless person is like a public woman to whom everyone has access. I ought to raise something to the dignity of my ideal, to come to love, to believe blindly and be prepared to sacrifice my life—but what should it be? Anything, so long as I have the ideal. I, a male virgin, bunged up with my ideal!