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Lucien Goldmann

“To me, the interest in Gombrowicz’s remarkable play resides in the fact that in order to pose a number of fundamental problems about the human condition today (purity and compromise; youth and entry into life; imminence and transcendence; authentic value and degeneration of values), the author has created an imaginary world in which—whether he wanted this consciously or not—the unfolding of the action becomes a sort of grotesque chronicle of the great social upheavals that happened in Russia since 1917 and in certain countries in Central Europe since 1945 and of the repercussions of these events on the condition and conscience of mankind.”
—Lucien Goldmann, “La critique n’a rien compris” (“The Critics Haven’t Understood Anything”), France-Observateur, February 6, 1964 [Trans. Dubowski]
JPG - 23.3 ko
Echoes of the premiere of The Marriage, directed by Jorge Lavelli in Paris, January 1964. Drawing by Piem: “Ils se marièrent et eurent beaucoup de spectateurs.” (They got married and had many spectators). [This is a play on the French expression “Ils se marièrent et eurent beaucoup d’enfants”, literally, “They got married and had many children,” with “spectators” replacing “children.” In French, the original expression is typical of the end of fairy tales, like “Happily Ever After.”]

Witold Gombrowicz himself

“Goldmann makes the Drunkard into the rebellious masses, Henry’s fiancée into the nation, the King into the government, and me into a ‘Polish squire’ who contained the historical drama in these symbols. I timidly protested, yes, I do not deny that The Marriage is a wild version of a crazy history; in the dreamy or drunken becoming of this action is mirrored the fantasticality of the historical process, but to make Molly the nation and Father the state ... ?? Nothing doing. Goldmann, professor, critic, broad-shouldered Marxist, decreed that I did not know that he knew better! Rabid Marxist imperialism! They use that doctrine to invade people! Goldmann, armed with Marxism, was the subject—I, deprived of Marxism, was the object—a few people, not at all amazed that Goldmann was interpreting me and not the other way around, listened to the discussion.”
—Diary, 1965 [Trans. Vallee]
“The greatest difficulty is the fact that The Marriage is not the artistic expression of some sort of issue or situation (something to which France has accustomed us), but a relaxed outlet for the imagination, an imagination that is striving, it is true, to move in a certain direction. […]
On the stage, therefore, The Marriage should become a Mount Sinai, a place full of mystical revelations; a cloud, pregnant with a thousand meanings; a galloping work of imagination and intuition; a Grand Guignol, full of play; a puzzling missa solemnis on the threshold of time, at the foot of an unknown altar. This dream is a dream and it moves in darkness, by right it should be illuminated only by bolts of lightning (forgive me for expressing myself in such lofty terms, but otherwise I would not be able to get you to understand how The Marriage should be staged).”
—Diary, 1954 [Trans. Vallee]

Jerzy Jarocki

“I can still admit it today: The reading of this text hit me painfully. I was struck by the grandeur, the acuity and the madness of this play. I knew I had to transform it into theater.
—Jerzy Jarocki, Dialog, 1991, n°2 [Trans. Dubowski]