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Cosmos and Pornografia: Two Novels
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Cosmos and Pornografia: Two Novels

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  183 ratings  ·  23 reviews
Here are two major works by the famed Polish novelist and dramatist Witold Gombrowicz. The first, Cosmos, a metaphysical thriller, revolves around an absurd investigation. It is set in provincial Poland and narrated by a seedy, pathetic, and witty student, who is charming and appalling by turns, and whose voice is dense with the richly palpable description that characteriz ...more
Paperback, 362 pages
Published March 23rd 1994 by Grove Press (first published June 1985)
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I was recently reminded of this book. I bought it as a teenager because the two titles seemed to be a perfect summation of my mind's competing interests at the time. I remember COSMOS to be one of the funniest things I'd ever read. It's Kafka without legitimate horror, and Proust without legitimate desire; somehow, the book doesn't get engulfed by those two influences. The ending is one of the great metaphysical jokes of all time.
so far i've finished Cosmos. Taking a little break now. This was possibly the most disturbing story I've ever read. Not so much a mystery, not so much a story, sort of a step by step detailed description of how mediocrity can easily lead to insanity. kind of upsetting in a way, but with some really incredible moments.
Nightmarish and hilarious. The novel exploits the idea that our minds interpret the world by making meaningful connections--between words and objects, causes and effects, before and after, etc. What's the difference between a "meaningful connection" and "paranoia"?
Sabrina Calle
This is an amazing read. And proof- as if we needed it- that Eastern Europe pretty much corners literature.
I read this book a few years back and kind of forgot about it. So far I have only re-read Cosmos and was so happy to remind myself how the story is so graceful with its dry observations and a mix of absurdly, hilarious points. Everything is nothing, and nothing is everything, and here we are in the middle of it trying to figure it out.

-"I had been ready for anything, but not for a teapot. Enough is enough, and this was the last straw. There is a sort of excess about reality, and after a certain
Jim Leckband
Cosmos: Why is something something? Why did this or that thing happen? What does my perspective on things change what they are?

These are some of the weightier questions that ran through my head while I was reading this weird novel. Narrated by a man visiting a Polish household in the countryside where some quite inconsequential things happen, it adds up to a philosophical mystery - the Cosmos, in other words is where ultimately inconsequential stuff happens that only appears consequential due to
Right from the beginning, you get the sense of how much is fastened, rattling, to the train of this man's thought. A sentence from page two:

"I wondered, standing in the midst of this chaos, this proliferating vegetation with its endless complications, my head full of the rattle and clatter of the nightlong train journey, insufficient sleep, the air and the sun and the tramp through the heat with this man Fuchs, and Jesia and my mother, the row about the letter and my rudeness to the old man, an
I liked this. I usually like goofy eastern european kafka-y novels that question my reality. because, after all, reality is just a function of the state, man. this one is from the dirty thirties and the land of poland (hey, how come the pope wore a funny hat? cuz he was a fuckin' polack and they're so goddamn dubm they also do stupid stuff that stands out like that, fuckin' polacks). anyway, this book is pretty short and hard to make sense of, which are both to its credit. it's a murder mystery ...more
Both Cosmos and Pornografia start with a storyteller's "once upon a time" and feature the author-as-narrator stumbling to make sense of a reality clouded by obsession. In Cosmos, the narrative gluts with repetitive associations, hinged around hanging dead animals and a convergence of women's mouths in an enjoyably mystery that disappointingly never takes off. In Pornographia, the narrator's voyeuristic fixation on eking erotic experience from innocence is told with a pitching and doomed hysteria ...more
John M.
These two novels are both exercises in the absurd; taut and paranoic with a thick streak of black humor. I particularly enjoyed the symbiotic relationship between the younger and older characters in 'Pornografia'. You have the interesting case of Frederick and the narrator corrupting and manipulating the two youths through whom they live vicariously but the issue can also be considered in reverse; Karol and Henia playing up to the expectations of the elders and manipulating them. Then you have t ...more
Albert F. Jester
"but let me tell you about another, even more curious adventure.

"it was sweltering. fuchs tramped on ahead and i followed behind. trouser-legs. heels. sand. on we plodded. earth. ruts. the road was vile. gleams from shiny pebbles, the air shimmering and buzzing with heat, everything black with sunlight. houses, fences, fields and woods. what a road. what a tramp. where we were coming from and why...but that would be a long story"

-from 'cosmos'

go on!!
Andrew Bourne
Jan 19, 2008 Andrew Bourne rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Andrew by: Vinny Zompa
"Bamberging the Berg!" The last quarter of this novella couldn't be better--it runs like spilled soup on the counter, down those womens' calves of table legs, and shamefully all over your carpet.
John Demczuk
Two classic novellas that suffer (however slightly) from indirect translation. The experience is still there, but best read in Danuta Borchardt's stellar direct translations from the original Polish.
Jul 15, 2010 rr added it
Cosmos is a very well-done novel, and yet it may be that I never recommend it to anyone to read. The book seems to me to be located at an intersection of Dostoevsky, Camus, and Mann.
Aug 07, 2007 Scott rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: novel
The first book has especially followed me around. I am quite curious to re-read this by another translator, Danuta Borchardt.
ian Wolff
The lost son of Kafka. He dazzles with a freakishly dark humor and a head-spinning linguistic acrobatics.
I think oe of them is called a "gothic novel," and it's true!
Jun 10, 2008 Celi rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Celi by: Gabriel Barredo
Sólo leí Cosmos, un relato cerebral!
Ahora voy por Pornografia.
Jon Wagner
Really like Gombrowicz. Both are good like Ferdydurke.
Aug 10, 2007 Jojo rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone!
Soooo funny. Bamberging the berg.....
Hold on to your sanity!
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Translations? 2 6 Aug 09, 2007 10:39AM  
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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 Pornografia Bacacay

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