lisa_emily's Reviews > Insatiability

Insatiability by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz
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's review
Dec 21, 07

bookshelves: fictions, phantasmagoria
Recommended for: distopians
Read in January, 2006

It is a difficult book to explain. It fits within the strange and perverse literary universe, between Lautréamont's Songs of Maldoror and Alfred Jarry's Days & Nights. Complicated, perverse and at times unwieldy, I was mesmerized and overwhelmed, simultaneously. I vacillated between being unable to put the book down, to being incapable of reading another sentence; but I finished it.

Written in a language that is fantastic and punful, even in translation, with grotesque and unreal characters; it has a basic story plot: a coming of age story for the main character, Genezip Kapen, and his initiation into the sexuality. His initial sexual, romantic relationship (and involvement with a group of artistic sadists) eventually corrupts him and he loses his mind. Genezip, or Zip, runs off to join the military and then has a few more mind-loosening romances, which he ends up committing and participating in some unsavory acts. Zip occupies an unsettling world, where Europe is under threat of Communist China's takeover, and Poland is embroiled in war with China.

Overall, Insatiability is a difficult novel to write about, because it spans so many ideas that it would take another book to explain it all. It doesn't deal with the development of characters, rather, the characters- like Zip, are an unfolding of a reaction. What happens when a young, freedom seeker comes into contact with decadent, artistic ideas, unfettered sexuality, and war? It is as though Witkiewicz decided to conduct an experiment in a future world where values and intimacy and been replaced by lust and neurosis, and the novel became the document. Witkiewicz wrote Insatiability during the two world wars; the erosion of idealism and the political anxiety for the future are present. Witkiewicz throws his combating constructs of art, politics, and individuality into the word mix which make up this novel. A painter, playwright, philosopher, he used his novels as a hulking receptacle where these raucous conceits run amok.
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