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Pornografia: A Novel

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  1,056 ratings  ·  56 reviews

One of the indisputable totems of twentieth-century world literature, Witold Gombrowicz wrote Pornografia after leaving his native Poland for Argentina in 1939 and then watching from afar as the German invasion destroyed his country. Translated for the first time into English from the original Polish by award-winning translator Danuta Borchardt, Pornografia is one of Gombr

ebook, 248 pages
Published September 9th 2010 by Grove/Atlantic, Inc. (first published 1960)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,036)
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Gombrowicz has never failed to amaze me. While this book is not quite on the same level as Ferdydurke, it is still stunning. Like Ferydurke, the themes of "youth" and "maturity" are still highly prevalent and key to the novel, but here these themes are regarded in a completely different fashion. With Pornografia, he shows the power held in youth and his disgust for his fellow "grown man" as two adults toy with the lives of two teenagers, pushing them to act in subtle ways as if they were trying...more
This is one of those books about the duplicity of this lifeless journey, where a man is riding to church as if he were actually riding to church when of course he is not even he and he is definitely not riding to church. Fryderyk is probably France and people watch simple pastoral settings but it's all about Poland before and during the Second World War. So it's fun for awhile trying to figure out what the names mean and who's Chamberlain, who's Hitler. Then it's not so much fun anymore.

This cou...more
Ben Winch
An off-the-wall classic, part war thriller, part philosophical enquiry, written by a Polish emigre living in Argentina in 1960 who had arrrived on a cruise ship 20 years earlier and when the Second World War broke out decided not to go back, Pornografia has a deliciously unreal element to it. From the first page (one of the most arresting in literature) this is theatrical, but with the atmosphere and three dimensions that only a novel can supply. The plot is bizarre: two ageing intellectuals (on...more
Monica Carter
Youth is wasted on the young.
George Bernard Shaw

Nothing would seem more true than Shaw's quote according to Gombrowicz's narrator, Witold Gombrowicz. Pornografia,Gombrowicz's novel that missed winning the International Prize for Literature by one vote in 1960, features the eponymous narrator of the author and his compatriot in obsession, Fryderyk. Beginning with Gombrowicz's first meeting with Fryderyk, "a middle-aged guy..., dark and lean, with an aquiline nose", we know that Fryderyk easily,...more
Mark Van Aken Williams
Witold Gombrowicz was Polish, but lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His fiction is thoroughly Latin American. Yet he is the antithesis of Borges. His style is full of savagery and manic obsession. The contrasts of desire and impotence, along with deception and illusion, brilliantly merge into psychological drama. He is nothing short of the godfather of Bolaño.
Allan MacDonell
Aspiring masturbators should be warned that Witold Gombrowicz’s Pornografia contains no hardcore sexual activity. There is bodily penetration, but only by knives. All of the climaxes and most of the carnality that pops up throughout the novel arise from the intense physical intimacy people share when they murder one another through stabbing. Set in Poland during the Nazi occupation, a Poland never visited by Gombrowicz, who irrevocably expatriated prior to the war’s onset, Pornografia’s atmosphe...more
Richard Stopford
Aside from being a brilliantly unnerving story, practically hallucinatory in its intensity, it's got to be the only book I've read which uses modal metaphysics to explore issues of identity, ethics and desire. Rather than running through the story, it's more interesting to consider the complex notion of pornography in the novel and what that could mean.

The narrator - Gombrowicz himself - and his friend become obsessed with a young couple who are actually no more than children who have grown up t...more
Gombrowicz is a unique writer, very difficult to translate into English. This book was translated by a winner of the Polish government's "Found in Translation" award, which she won partly on the basis of this translation. What I find interesting about Gombrowicz is that his two biggest insights into human nature--that even as adults we all feel immature and that people's personalities change depending on whom they interact with--are turned by him into very interesting and provocative novels and...more
Andrii Mironchenko
This novel is like a theatre of the Absurd. But, in contrast to the absurd in Kafkas novels it is not cold and passionless like a state. It is idiotic as a human.
John David
When reaching the end of a novel, rarely do I have so much to say, and also so little. This was my first experience with Gombrowicz, and it was a bewildering, exciting one. It has elective affinities with Kundera that make it a unique, and not wholly pleasurable, read. About one third of the way through the novel, I wasn’t sure that I would make it the rest of the way. The purely distilled, unrelenting psychological depictions of its characters and occasional absurdism can sometimes make it ardu...more
Bill Smith
Alternately comic seduction, crime fiction, and morality tale about how we cope in wartime, Pornografia is really an allegory of Poland's role as pawn as the Major Powers broker their wars. The title is more accurately translated as "voyeurism" which gives you a much better sense of what's between the covers. Gombrowicz is not the warmest of writers - but he makes no apologies for that. Instead, his singular omnipotent voice gives the book its multilayered resonance, sense of vertigo, and, yes,...more
Gombrowicz's 'Pornography' is a deeply transgressive work, but not in the way that its title suggests - Gombrowicz's biggest joke. It plays its hand with understated subtlety and sly absurdism, which could well be taken for dullness. 'Death in Venice', played for laughs?

The title has been criticised as inappropriate or misleading. I think it is perfect. Without it, the book would hardly make sense. The title undercuts the languidly unfolding portrayal of a couple of old Polish duffers, remindin...more
Scott Lapierre
Hilarious and disturbing. Ribald and base but at the same time brainy and removed. Can be read like a dirty joke or a complex modernist treatise on voyeurism, generation gaps, war, and a whole slew of other unrelated topics. But most importantly, it's extremely fun to read. The translator (and I assume Gombrowicz himself) captures a staccato, disjointed, contradictory, sometimes breezy, sometimes stilted language that convincingly feels like an unfiltered transcript direct from a human brain. An...more
Gombrowicz is an ultra delicate seismometer of everything human - sensing and analysing any tiniest emotion, look, gesture, wink, hesitation to the smallest detail. At the same time (or maybe because of that) the plot is very engaging and the ending quite surprising. A rewarding read from the first page to the last.
Julia Boechat Machado
Pornografia é um jogo, uma história cuja base são os delírios do narrador frente a cada ato dos dois adolescentes (o menino, entre parênteses). É uma sedução, um plano macabro, mas não consciente, não por parte deles.
Why was (the boy) in brackets?
Neither porn nor graphic, this is proper readable alternative modern literature.

This is a Polish novel written in 1960 by Milan Kundera’s highly recommended author Gombrowicz. This is a new translation from the original Polish rather than the earlier English version which made errors in translating from a French translation.

It hardly needs stating but this is not a top-shelf adult book; there are no seedy sex scenes in the story. The title is the original Polish and rather reflects the vicarious...more
Andrew David
Jul 01, 2012 Andrew David rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Andrew by: Artur Rosman
Let me give some advice:

If you, your spouse, and your teenage farmhand ever find yourself tending a tract of land in the country, beware of old dudes from the city. A brief stay at your farmhouse may be OK, but if those fellows start to linger, expect mischief. Expect creepy machinations. If you find that someone's been leaving strange letters under rocks, suspect the old men! If you see the old timers tiptoeing about the garden with wide eyes, lock them up! At the very least, don't let them ne...more
My comments with additional links

The summary from the Publishers Weekly review (taken from Bacacay: The Polish Literature Weblog):

While recuperating from wartime Warsaw in the Polish countryside, the unnamed narrator and his friend, Fryderyk, attempt to force amour between two local youths, Karol and Henia, as a kind of a lewd entertainment. They become increasingly frustrated as they discover that the two have no interest in one another, and the games are momentarily stopped by a local murder a
There is a lot of symbolism in Pornografia, the writing is based on wrapping words around themselves, in a way that would show how the narrator and characters involved with him are wrapped around in his mind. The writing style itself is rather unique and I can't quite place a finger on having read too much like it, nor can I find a way to truly describe what it is I experienced. For the most part, I found myself realizing that I was as much a witness to the action as any of the other characters,...more
Feb 14, 2012 Williwaw rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: coffee house intellectuals
There were flashes of brilliance here, but also a whole lot of dullness. Is this really among the best that 20th century literature has to offer? If so, then I'm ready to go back to science fiction and suspense novels for a long time.

Gombrowicz (or at least his eponymous character) seems to feel a lot of disgust for mature folks. He and his character seem to be suggesting that the old can only live through the young. But the opposite observation seems equally compelling to me: that youth could n...more
Manifest  Terror
[also posted herehere: ]

this is the second novel i have read by witold. the first novel i read was kosmos, which i liked much less than pornografia. both were translated by danuta borchardt; i found that kosmos was simply too difficult to read and therefore too difficult to enjoy. pornografia, on the other hand, is a much easier to follow novel and, although slightly schizophrenic at times, a thoroughly enjoyable read. that is, enjoyable if you like books about wartime europe, bored and lusty ol...more
"I learned fro Madame Ewa the Pietak frequently comes here, therefore I dropped in, since I have four rabbit pelts and the sole of a shoe.' And, to show that these were not empty words, he displayed the pelts, which had been wrapped in paper."

"Three o'clock in the afternoon. Foggy. A hag's torso splitting Fryderyk in half, a child's leg riding onto his chin...and so he traveled...but he traveled, as always, correctly and with perfect manners."

"The train stopped again, somewhere behind me the shu...more
Jorge Maia
Um dos comentários mais correntes sobre o romance de Gombrowicz refere a inexistência de cenas pornográficas em toda a obra. “No sexual reality. Everything remains in acondition of sexual potential. It is exactly this that Gombrowicz calls pornography.” Esta leitura coloca, numa perspectiva muito aristotélica, a tensão romanesca entre o sexo em acto e o sexo em potência, dado por um clima erótico que nunca se concretiza. A pornografia seria, segundo esta perspectiva, esse estado potencial da sex...more
Mi piace pensare che anche Witold e Federico siano vittime degli eventi, imprevedibili tanto per loro come per tutti gli altri. Proprio qui si nasconde il piacere più perverso: hanno innescato un complesso meccanismo a catena e, semplicemente, si godono il drammatico spettacolo. La differenza è che sono gli unici ad esserne coscienti e irrimediabilmente ammaliati. (continua su Il tempo rubato )
If ever there was a more fitting title!

I felt like a voyeur the entire time I read this, seeing through the shifting perspective of the narrator the beauty of youth and the horror of corruption. I kept trying to apply a nice, neat grad school term to describe the story and its philosophic digressions, but Gombrowicz's book proved elusive in this regard. Yeah, two urban intellectuals retreat to the Polish countryside and, bored as hell, become obsessed with two youths and scheme to orchestrate t...more
Francesco D'Isa
A concentrate of the most wicked and detailed mental perversions of the history of literature, inside an inexplicable book by an inexplicable author, pornographic both in its style and thought.

Plot: Two guys want two teenagers to have sex, then everything ends badly.
Ce roman met en scène deux hommes d'âge mûr qui, pour leur propre plaisir, vont tenter de pousser deux jeunes gens dans les bras l'un de l'autre. Ils le font par érotisme, au nom de l'esthétique, mais dans une démarche égoïste ; d'ailleurs, ils n'ont cure de la notion de bien ou de mal dans les moyens qu'ils vont mettre en œuvre (essentiellement de la manipulation verbale à l'origine), comme des conséquences de leurs intrigues. Cette histoire m'a mis souvent mal à l'aise (même si l'écriture est...more
In the introduction, Gombrowicz says that he is making a corollary to existentialism with his work.

In this book, the corollary is "Hell is older people."

Yeah I'm really proud of coming up with that
Renan Rogero
À primeira vista, o título parece não condizer com o conteúdo. Em todo o romance não há nenhuma descrição sexualmente explícita, sem mencionar uma pura e aberta obscenidade, que o justifique. Na verdade 'Pornografia' se refere à perversidade, ou seja, a discreta vileza que reside no ardil representada no âmago do enredo. Eu ousaria dizer que Gombrowicz percebeu a similaridade entre essas diversas temáticas como: masoquistas empregadas domésticas sujeitas à servidão de seu Senhor, sádicos policia...more
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gombrowicz 1 22 Sep 30, 2007 02:30PM  
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Witold Marian Gombrowicz (August 4, 1904 in Małoszyce, near Kielce, Congress Poland, Russian Empire – July 24, 1969 in Vence, near Nice, France) was a Polish novelist and dramatist. His works are characterized by deep psychological analysis, a certain sense of paradox and an absurd, anti-nationalist flavor. In 1937 he published his first novel, Ferdydurke, which presented many of his usual themes:...more
More about Witold Gombrowicz...
Ferdydurke Trans-Atlantyk Cosmos Bacacay Diary

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