Witold Gombrowicz : Gombrowicz

Witold GombrowiczBiography


One of the greatest Polish writers of the 20th century. Born in Małoszyce in 1904. Died in Vence on the Cote d'Azur in 1969, where he is buried.

From 1939 until 1963 he lived in Argentina. He spent 1963-1964 in West Berlin with a grant from the Ford Foundation and the Senate of the City of West Berlin; from 1964 he lived in France.

One of the Polish writers whose work is most recognised throughout the world, he is, next to Stanisław Lem, the most frequently translated, read in 34 languages.



The history of Wsola and the estate that became the property of the Gombrowicz family dates back at least to the the 15th century and is connected with members of the Kochanowski dynasty, from whom the modern literary Polish language developed. The Gombrowicz family arrived in 1924, when the second owner of the palace, built a decade earlier, gave it over to her niece Aleksandra, the wife of Jerzy Gombrowicz, Witold's brother. Aleksandra and Jerzy became the owners outright through an auction of the estate in its economic decline.

Witold Gombrowicz visited Wsola regularly from 1924 until 1939. It was here that he studied for exams, relaxed, played sports, and fell in love with a neighbor, Krystyna Janowska. But most importantly, he wrote while he was here, including parts of Ferdydurke. It remains an open questions as to which parts of the writer's noteworthy prewar texts were composed during his visits as a guest at Wsola. He had the habit of bringing manuscripts with him and, when asked by the servants about the reason for his late rising, would answer that he stayed up late writing novels. Proof of this claim was his smoke-filled room covered with papers.

Even though he couldn't bear nearby Radom (because the local bar association did not want him as a member), he gladly returned to Wsola, and very often in his reminiscences as well. In 1939 both brothers left Wsola; Witold went to Argentina, while Jerzy was in internment in Romania after taking part in the September campaign. The history of the Gombrowicz family in Wsola ended shortly afterward; in 1941 the estate was occupied by the Germans. The family never returned to Wsola. After the war Jerzy and Aleksandra lived in Radom; Witold remained an emigre until his death in 1969.





Birth of Marian Witold Gombrowicz in Małoszyce in the Sandomierz province (August 4, 1904). His father, Jan Onufry Gombrowicz (1868-1933), was the descendant of a Lithuanian family that settled in the Kingdom of Poland after the January Uprising, a member of the gentry and an industrialist. Witold Gombrowicz’s mother, Marcela Antonina Kotkowska (1872-1959), was also a member of the gentry from Bodzechów. His siblings are Janusz Gombrowicz (1894-1968), Jerzy Gombrowicz (1895-1971) and Irena Gombrowicz (1899-1961), called Rena. The children are raised in the company of adults. Persuasion is the accepted child-rearing method; repressive tactics are avoided. Tutors frequent the home, including French governesses, while their mother’s former teacher, the Swiss lady Miss Maria Zwieck, resides with the family. Reading often to her children, their mother inspires them with the pleasure of books, discussion and polemics. In 1904 Jan Onufry Gombrowicz  becomes the executive director of the family factory and farm in Bodzechów. (Formerly, in 1901, after the death of Ignacy Kotkowski, Witold Gombrowicz’s maternal grandfather, his father assumes administration of the mills in Świślina, the dolomite and sandstone mines in Doły Biskupie, as well as the stone manufactories there). Before the outbreak of World World I, the family regularly travels abroad (Germany, Austria, Italy, France and Belgium).




The family moves to Bodzechów, where Witold Gombrowicz is the youngest of many cousins. Earlier, in 1898, His father opens a cooperative shop and organizes a factory orchestra, while his mother stages amateur performances with the participation of civil servants and workers with the intention of tempering their revolutionary mood. After the brutal attack by the Czar’s soldiers on demonstrating workers in St. Petersburg, at a workers’ meeting his father expresses his opposition to the Czar and the violence.



Arrest of Jan Onufry Gombrowicz. He is sentenced to the Radom prison on the suspicion of participation in the Revolution of 1905, he is released after a week with the payment of bail. Charged with belonging to the Revolutionary Fraction of the Polish Socialist Party and taking part in the organization of armed gangs. After a trial of more than a year, in which it was proved that he merely made anti-government statements, Witold Gombrowicz’s father is sentenced to two years in prison, but remains at liberty with the payment of bail. The family in Bodzechów encourages Jan Onufry Gombrowicz to resign from administration of the factory, in response to which he proposes the sale of his shares. Met with refusal, he gathers a consortium which acquires one fourth of the shares, receives the majority of votes and liquidates the estate. After a flood in 1909 he establishes a stock company in Doły Biskupie, a paper factory, with the intention of transferring its shares in the future to his youngest son, whence the name of the enterprise, Witulin. The older sons receive their education in Warsaw. The younger children continue to be tutored at home. Witold Gombrowicz acquires the basics of French and German thanks to his sister Rena Gombrowicz’s tutors, the French Jeanette Grosjean and the German Klara von Paprocki. During this period he acquires his love of music. Travels in 1910 with his siblings to Reichenhall.



The Gombrowicz family moves to Warsaw. His father maintains the profit-making mill and house in Bodzechów in which Witold Gombrowicz’s grandmother Kotkowska lives with her mentally disabled son, Bolesław, the mines in Doły together with the dolomite mines in Zagnańsk purchased in the interim and the shares of Witulin – as chairman of the board he manages the factory’s presence in the capital. The Gombrowicz family rents an eight-room flat in a grand building on 3 Służewska street. After relocating his family, Jan Gombrowicz serves his sentence in the Radom prison, refusing the privileges entitled to him as a member of the gentry who did not commit a dishonorable crime. Marcela Antonina Gombrowicz entreaties the Czar with a request for a pardon for her husband, but not expressing contrition. Pardon is granted and in February 1912 Jan Gombrowicz is freed. Witold Gombrowicz begins private lessons at the home of Ignacy Baliński, conducted by Madame Kiersnowska; his fellow pupils are Kazimierz and Antoni (Zaza) Baliński as well as Antoni Wasiutyński.



The outbreak of World War I keeps the Gombrowicz family in Małoszyce, their summer residence since 1911.



Witold Gombrowicz begins attending St. Stanislaw Kostka Gymnasium. Promoted without problems, he receives average grades. His father assumes administration of Trade Central ZŁOM. The factory in Doły Biskupie is devastated. Work in the mines is suspended. In 1917 Jan Onufry Gombrowicz becomes director of the Warsaw Board of the Ostrowiecki Iron Works. Also receives the position of chairman of the Union of Philistines of the Arkonia Fraternity, to which he belonged during his university years. (None of his sons take part in fraternity life during their studies). Shares of Witulin are sold. Purchase of rental apartment buildings at Wspólna 33 and Próżna 7 in Warsaw. (Half of the building on Wspólna, destroyed during the Uprising in 1944, will be sold just before its outbreak by Janusz Gombrowicz, the eldest of the brothers. The building on Próżna will be sold after Jan Gombrowicz’s death [1933] in order to compensate his obligations to his older sons). In 1920 Witold Gombrowicz spends the summer in Małoszyce. Back in Warsaw in August. He works in an office sending packages to soldiers stationed at the front. Gombrowicz returns to Małoszyce for the autumn. Inspired by his older brother Jerzy Gombrowicz’s passion for genealogy, he begins a history of the family (unfinished), Ilustrissimae familiae Gombrovici, based on domestic archives. In 1922 Witold Gombrowicz passes his matura examinations, receiving satisfactory grades with the exception of Polish language (excellent), religion as well as general and Polish history (all good). Afterward he takes a holiday in Sopot. Matriculates at the Department of Law at Warsaw University. He falls ill in the autumn with an ailment of the lungs and travels to the woodland property of Janusz Gombrowicz and his wife Franciszka 1° v. Cichowska, 2° v. Gombrowicz, whom he had married earlier that year. During this solitary visit Witold Gombrowicz begins to sketch a novel about a bookkeper. Destroys the text at the advice of his brother and sister-in-law.





Jan Gombrowicz becomes director of the Warsaw Board of the Ostrowiecki Iron Works. Also receives the position of chairman of the Union of Philistines of the Arkonia Fraternity, to which he belonged during his university years. (None of his sons take part in fraternity life during their studies). Shares of Witulin are sold.. Purchase of rental apartment buildings at Wspólna 33 i Próżna 7 in Warsaw. (Half of the building on Wspolna, destroyed during the Uprising in 1944, will be sold just before its outbreak by Janusz Gombrowicz, the eldest of the brothers. The building on Próżna will be sold after Jan Gombrowicz's death in order to compensate his obligations to his older sons.)



Witold spends the summer in Małoszyce. Back in Warsaw in August. Works in an office sending packages to soldiers stationed at the front. Returns to Małoszyce for the autumn. Inspired by his older brother Jerzy's passion for genealogy, he begins a history of the family (unfinished), Ilustrissimae familiae Gombrovici, based on domestic archives.




Passes his matura examinations, receiving satisfactory grades with the exception of Polish language (excellent), religion, and general and Polish history (good). Afterward he takes a holiday in Sopot. Matriculates at the the Department of Law at Warsaw University. Falls ill in the autumn with an ailment of the lungs and travels to tthe woodland property of Janusz and his wife Franciszka, whom had married earlier that year. During this solitary visit he writes the "powieść o jakimś buchalterze” ("historia księgowego”). Destroys the text at the advice of his brother and sister-in-law..




Spends the summer in Rabka and Zakopane, where he meets Tadeusz Boy Żeleński


During the second year of his university studies, he writes "zła powieść” ("pierwsza powieść”, "najoryginalniejsze ze wszystkich dzieł”). Shows it to his acquaintance Pani Szuchowa in Zakopane, at whose advice the work is burned. His father assumes the positions of chairman of Centrala Handlowa ZŁOM and vice-chairman of Żegluga Polska.



First visits to Jerzy and his wife Aleksandra in Wsola. "Flirts with his cousins and his sister's friends" (W. Gombrowicz, Biographie de Witold Gombrowicz). His father attempts to arrange a marriage for him. Witold withstands the pressure, ignoring the opportunity staged in a restaurant. Experiences his "first love", to KrystynaJ Janowska, a young girl he meet in Warsaw, from a gentry family friendly with his parents and the owners of an estate near Wsola. This acquaintance will last until the mid-1930s. After publication of his first collection of stories entitled Pamiętnik z okresu dojrzewann, Wiitold will experience severe humiliation at the Janowski manor house (Witold Gombrowicz, Dziennik 1953-1956), which will become a contributing factor to the creation of Ferdydurke. Witold spends the summer of 1926 in Wisla,, where he is charmed Krystyna Mariańska. He lodges in the Bukowa villa, later in the Piast pension.




Finishes his university studies, receives the Master's degree.



Journey to France via Germany and Belgium with the intention of undertaking study at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Internationales. Lodges at rue Belloy. Travels south to Verney, Le Boulou, and Port-Vendres. Stays at pensions in Banyuls and Vernet-les-Bains.



Begins a court apprenticeship at the Magistrates' Court.` For more than a year he works on criminal cases sent to the District Court. Writes his first stories, related to his earlier Pamiętnik z okresu dojrzewania: "Tancerz Mecenasa Kraykowskiego", "Pamiętnik Stefana Czarnieckiego", "Zbrodnia z premedytacją", and "Dziewictwo".




Writes a rough draft of "powieśc dla kucharek”, intended as a joint project between Gombrowicz and Tadeusz Kępiński. The latter withdraws during the initial stage of collaboration. Further travel to Zakopane for health reasons. Witold works on a text (unpublished, but possibly becomes the basis for the novel Opętani published ten years later in installments). Enrolls in the Legia sports club. Makes the acquaintance of Tadeusz Breza at Halina Szczukówna's pension in Zakopane. In Breza's company he intends to show his four stories to Mieczysław Grydzewski and Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz during a cafe breakfast; however, Iwaszkiewicz's attitude puts him off. (W. Gombrowicz, Wspomnienia polskie). Continues his apprenticeship in the Magistrates' and Appelate Courts, where he carries out the duties of secretary-recorder of cases. In 1931 he spends three mornings weekly at the Centrala Złomu, fulfilling his responsibilities to his employer at home. Works on his next stories: "Biesiada u hrabiny Kotłubaj", "Przygody", "Na kuchennych schodach", and "Zdarzenia na brygu Banbury". Writes in Court. Joins Tadeusz Breza's circle of friends, including the siblings Adam and Zofia Mauersberg, who hold a regular salon, Antoni (Tonio) Sobański, Mira Zimińska, Zofia Szymanowska (Chądzyńska). He befriends Alicja (Litka) Liebhardt, who will help him financially during his Argentinian years. Habitue of the Ziemiańska and Zodiak Cafes, where in time he creates his own coterie. Among its members are Zuzanna Ginczanka, Gizella Ważykowa, Stefan and Ewa Otwinowski, Stanisław Piętak, Jerzy Pietrkiewicz, Eryk Lipiński and Hanna Gosławska (Ha-Ga), as well as Witold's cousin, Gustaw Kotkowski, Bela Gelbhardt (Czajka), Janusz Minkiewicz and Świętopełk Karpiński.




After completing his apprenticeship Witold Gombrowicz decides to follow his father’s urging to pursue a lawyer’s apprenticeship. He considers apprenticing to his lawyer friend Tadeusz Przyłęcki, a Radom lawyer. But the members of the local bar association, belonging in large part to the right-wing Stronnictwo Narodowe, reject his application. At the same time Witold Gombrowicz makes an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to publish his stories in Kazimierz Wierzyński’s Kultura. He gives the stories to the poet Stanisław Baliński as well as to Tadeusz Breza’s circle, where they are met with approval. Gombrowicz shows them to the Rój company. Publisher Marian Kister demands that he cover half the costs of the printing and paper and Witold Gombrowicz’s father complies. Memoirs of a Time of Immaturity (the stories mentioned earlier with the exception of On the Kitchen Steps) is published by Rój in 1933. Gombrowicz publishes the article The Attitude of New Authors in Kurier Polski, analysing his own first book as well as Rats and Soldiers by Adolf Rudnicki (whom he met during this period) and the high-profile Jealousy and Medicine by Michał Choromański. The article is signed with the initials G. K. (Gustaw Kotkowski). Polska Zbrojna proposes to print Gombrowicz’s feuilletons, but his essays do not meet the editors’ expectations and the proposal is withdrawn. The writer works on the play Ivona, Princess of Burgundia while caring for his ailing father. Jan Onufry Gombrowicz dies on December 21st.




Marcela Antonina Gombrowicz, Rena Gombrowicz and Witold Gombrowicz move to Chocimska 35. The writer occupies a room across from the apartment of his mother and sister, using their bathroom and taking meals with them. Among his guests are the writers and the artists – Bruno Schulz and Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz. Maintains acquaintance with the writer Zbigniew Uniłowski. Witold Gombrowicz receives a proposal to publish in Gazeta Polska from its editor, Bogusław Miedziński, a participant in the hunting parties organized by Gombrowicz’s older brother Jerzy. He publishes the story From the Private Diary of Hieronim Poniżalski. Having already decided not to pursue a legal career, the writer manages the apartment building on Wspólna. He finishes Ivona, Princess of Burgundia and shows it to the actress Mira Zimińska, who reads it with a lack of enthusiasm. As during both his periods of legal and literary life, Gombrowicz spends the winter months in Zakopane, where he generally stays at Miss Halina Szober’s pension.






“Prosto z mostu”, “Wiadomości Literackie” and “Tygodnik Ilustrowany” publish stories that anticipate “Ferdydurke”. Witold Gombrowicz publishes “Philidor’s Child Within” in “Gazeta Polska”, as well as a fragment of “Ferdydurke” in “Skamander”. He enters into a polemic with the writer Jerzy Andrzejewski. Gombrowicz reviews novels in “Kurier Polski”. A habitue of the writer Zofia Nałkowska’s salon, introduced there after his debut. Appears frequently at teas held by Tadeusz Boy Żeleński.





Witold Gombrowicz publishes in "Kurier Poranny","Świat" and "Kurier Warszawski". He publishes an article on Zofia Nałkowska’s style. Writes on open letter to Bruno Schulz in "Studio", in which he provokes his adversary to a confrontation with the inferiority of the prosaic. Schulz in reply writes about the primacy of art and its clear distinction from the commonplace of everyday. The confrontation rouses strident reaction. The writer makes the acquaintance of Jerzy Andrzejewski, with whom he does not succeed in staying on good terms. Works on his novel "Ferdydurke". In the last years before the outbreak of the war he is a regular at the Thursday receptions held by the writer Tadeusz Dołęga-Mostowicz.





Witold Gombrowicz continues writing "Ferdydurke". With the typewritten manuscript of the novel almost complete, the writer enjoys the summer hospitality of his friend Tadeusz Kępiński in Krakow. Returns to Warsaw, then leaves at the end of August for a brief stay in Zakopane. "Ferdydurke" is published in the autumn by Roj, post-dated to 1938. In the winter Gombrowicz falls victim to the flu epidemic in Warsaw. He plans a trip to Italy, via Hungary and Austria, as a correspondent for "Kurier Poranny".


The writer spends New Year’s Eve at Wsola. Publishes in "Kurier Poranny" and "Ateneum". In late spring Witold Gombrowicz travels via Vienna to Rome, accompanied by the author Stanisław Brochwicz-Kozłowski. Discovering his companion’s sympathy toward Nazi Germany, he continues on alone. After a brief stay in Venice, the writer returns to Poland via Vienna, observing the reaction to the Anschluss. He publishes his travel memoir in "Czas". Małoszyce is sold. "Skamander" publishes "Ivona, Princess of Burgundia". In the winter of 1938 Gombrowicz travels to Zakopane. During this stay he visits the poet Jan Kasprowicz’s wife, Maria Kasprowiczowa, at Villa Harenda in the company of Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz. The writer spends New Year’s Eve with the circle of friends at the Kameralna Cafe in Warsaw, where his acquaintance with Jerzy Andrzejewski is severed on account of Witold Gombrowicz’s brusque treatment of mentioned’s companion.





From June 4th until September 3rd, the Warsaw "Dobry wieczór! Kurier Czerwony!" and the Kielce-Radom "Express Poranny" publish the novel "Possessed " in installments, signed by Gombrowicz with the pseudonym Z. Niewieski. On July 29 the writer leaves from Gdynia aboard the transatlantic liner "Chrobry", bound for Argentina. Arrives in Buenos Aires on August 20th. The "Chrobry" departs on August 25th. Witold Gombrowicz decides to remain in Argentina. He registers at the Polish diplomatic mission.





Makes contact with the Polish community in Buenos Aires. Meets the Argentinian writer Manuel Gálvez and the poet Arturo Capdevila. In 1940 he befriends the young Argentinian writer Roger Plá, who appears in the "telephone” passage in Dziennik, as well as the painter Antonio Berni, through whom he meets Cecilia Benedit de Debenedetti, his patron..




After living in a small hotel in the center of the city, the writer moves to the distant calle Bacacay, whose name he will use as the title of the expanded version of the collection of stories he publishes as his literary debut ("Bacacay", 1957). Conducts a question-and-answer talk about European love for a group of young girls – Chinchina Capdevila, daughter of the poet, and her friends. On August 28th Witold Gombrowicz delivers a lecture "Experiences and Problems of Lesser-known Europe" in the Teatro del Pueblo, causing a scandal. His analysis of the prewar transformations of the Central European mentality is considered anti-Polish in light of comments heard afterwards hostile to the Second Polish Republic. At the end of the year the writer moves back to the center of Buenos Aires, living in the pension El Palomar at Avenida Corrientes 1258.

June 1940 – june 1941

Under a pseudonym Alexandro Ianca Witold Gombrowicz publishes "Romance in Venice" in the women’s magazine "El Hogar", as well as a series of 12 articles devoted to the famous romances of the European aristocracy, mainly the French, in "Aquí Está". His friends take up a collection for him.



The Polish diplomatic mission awards him support – cancelled in December after being deemed unsuitable for military service on account of his health. Witold Gombrowicz befriends Paulin Frydman, leader of the chess club in the Cafe Rex, as well as the poet Carlos Mastronardi. Mastronardi takes Gombrowicz to the home of Silvina Ocampo (the wife of the writer Adolf Bioy Casares, the sister of the patron and the editor Victoria Ocampo), where – as the writer recalls in "Diary" – he meets Jorge Luis Borges at dinner. In 1941 the poets Jorge Luis Borges, Ezequiel Martínez Estrada and Carlos Mastronardi publish – probably as a gesture of a friendly "gauczada" (favour) – a small book of poems "Tres Poetas a Polonia" (Kalicki R., "Dziennik patagoński"). At the end of the year Gombrowicz lists his correspondence addresses as Tacuarí 242 and Tucumán 462 (the address of  the Banco Polaco).





Witold Gombrowicz travels to Junín and Mendoza. He requests financial support from the Fund for Culture in London. The writer Józef Wittlin organizes a collection on his behalf among the Polish writers living in New York City. Gombrowicz works from time to time thanks to the recommendations of friends.


The writer leaves the pension without paying his bill. He lives in Morón thanks to the hospitality of Włodzimierz Taworski, journalist, but in extreme poverty. Thanks to the recommendation of  Stanisław Odyniec Gombrowicz receives work with the Jesuit publication Solidaridad. He begins working with the Catholic Criterio.



Witold Gombrowicz lives in small pensions in the center of the city on Bartolomé Mitre and Avenida de Mayo. He publishes in Criterio under the pseudonym Mariano Lenogiry the article Catholicism in Light of the New Currents in Art. In La Nación – the article Art and Boredom signed with his own name. In the literary magazine Papeles de Buenos Aires edited by Adolfo de Obieta he publishes Philidor’s Child Within. Visits La Falda in the Sierra de Córdoba, where his stay for health reasons is made possible by Paulin Frydman. This sojourn will result in the publication of Diary from Río Ceballos in Océano at the end of the year. During his stay in the mountains Gombrowicz begins work on the drama The Marriage. Writes the story The Banquet. He is mentioned in Eduardo Mallea’s article in Leoplan. At year’s end the writer begins publication of the series Our Erotic Tragedy in Viva cien a?os. Reviews Los Robinsones by Roger Plá in Que.



Witold Gombrowicz obtains support from the diplomatic mission. He receives a promise from his patron, Cecilia Benedit de Debenedetti, to publish "Ferdydurke". In December the writer begins a joint translation of the novel into Spanish.



Witold Gombrowicz continues the translation of "Ferdydurke". The group of friends meeting in the chess room at the Cafe Rex to work on the translation includes Virgilio Pi?era, Luis Centurión, Adolfo de Obieta, Humberto Rodríguez Tomeú as well as numerous contributors: Jorge Calvetti, Manuel Claps, Carlos Coldaroli, Adán Hoszowski, Gustavo Kotkowski, Pablo Manem, Mauricio Ossorio, Eduardo Paciorkowski, Ernesto J. Plunkett, Luis Rocha, Alejandro Rússovich, Carlos Sandelin, Juan Seddon, José Taurel, Luis Tello, José Patricio Villafuerte. The writer resumes work on "The Marriage".



"Nowiny Literackie", edited by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, publishes "Letter to the Ferdydurkists". In April Argos publishes "Ferdydurke". On June 29th, Witold Gombrowicz is living at Venezuela 615 in the city center in a tidy pension run by Elsa Schultze. The writer delivers a lecture entitled "Against Poets" in the Fray Mocho bookshop. He publishes 100 copies of a one-day newspaper "Aurora. Publication of a Resistance Movement". In December Gombrowicz begins employment at the Banco Polaco, working periodically in its library and preparing bank reports. Completes work on the drama "The Marriage".





Jointly with Alejandro Rússovich Witold Gombrowicz translates the drama into Spanish. Alejandro Rússovich moves into the neighboring room in the pension at Venezuela 615. Cecilia Benedit de Debenedetti finances the translation and publication of "The Marriage" by the EAM company. Gombrowicz works on "Trans-Atlantyk". Writes the story "The Rat" Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz visits Buenos Aires – he will dedicate his poem "Trip to Patagonia" ("Podróż do Patagonii"), to be published in 1950, to Witold Gombrowicz. 




Witold Gombrowicz translates "The Marriage" into French with the help of two young French girls, daughters of a diplomat living in Buenos Aires. He continues writing "Trans-Atlantyk". The writer spends his holiday at the Banco Polaco company resort at Mar del Plata. He begins correspondence with his oldest brother, Janusz Gombrowicz, while already corresponding at the time with his mother, Antonina Gombrowicz, and sister, Irena Gombrowicz. 



Witold Gombrowicz sends the translation of “The Marriage” to Andre Gide and Albert Camus (Gombrowicz R., “Gombrowicz w Argentynie”). Through Zofia Chądzyńska Witold Gombrowicz makes the acquaintance of Małgorzata Wickenhagen and he meets her circle of friends from the postwar Polish émigré community in Buenos Aires: Halina Grodzicka, Zygmunt Grocholski, Alicja Giangrande and Maria Świeczewska, with whose husband Karol he will maintain a longstanding friendship. Befriends also Adelajda (Ada) Lubomirska and her husband Henryk. Gombrowicz begins correspondence with Jerzy Giedroyc, editor of the Paris-based Kultura, his future publisher. The writer finishes work on “Trans-Atlantyk”.



Witold Gombrowicz publishes parts of the completed novel in “Kultura”. He finishes the story “The Banquet”. Writes the first sketches for “Cosmos” and the unfinished “History” (“an Operetta”). The writer sends “The Marriage” to Martin Buber and receives a polite reply.





Witold Gombrowicz takes issue in the pages of “Kultura” with the ideas expressed by Emile Cioran in the article “The Convenience and Inconvenience of Exile”.





The first published volume of “Biblioteka Kultury” contains “Trans-Atlantyk” and “The Marriage”. The publication of Diary in installments begins with the April issue of “Kultura” and will continue until Witold Gombrowicz’s death. The writer spends holiday in Salsipuedes at Cecilia Benedit de Debenedetti’s home. Alejandro Rússovich moves from the Elsa Schultze pension and marries Rosa María Brenca, whom he met in 1949 at the EAM publishing house. In “Preuves” François Bondy publishes an article about the Spanish edition of “Ferdydurke” and also includes parts of “Trans-Atlantyk” in translation, with an introduction by Konstanty A. Jeleński.



Meeting held in the Klub Polski devoted to Witold Gombrowicz’s work. Gombrowicz delivers philosophy courses for his acquaintances. The writer lives at the apartment of his friend, the painter Janusz Eichler, during his absence. He befriends Ernesto Sábato. Visits the Sierra de Córdoba, staying with relatives of Zygmunt Grocholski, Mr and Mrs. Lipkowski. Visits the Rússovich newlyweds at their property in Goya, Maria and Karol Świeczewski in San Isidro and Stanisław Odyniec in Mar del Plata., The writer enjoys the hospitality of Cecilia Benedit de Debenedetti in Salsipuedes accompanied by Alejandro Rússovich. At the end of the year Gombrowicz writes again to Martin Buber,  receiving another response in the new year, along with a recommendation.



Witold Gombrowicz leaves the Banco Polaco in May. A guest of the Rússovich’s in Goya. He translates “The Banquet” with Alejandro’s brother, Sergio. The writer visits Stanisław Odyniec in Mar del Plata and the La Caba?a estate belonging to Władysław (Dusio) Jankowski. Sketches for “Pornografia” and “Operetta”.



Witold Gombrowicz works on his novel “Pornografia”. Translates “Ferdydurke” into French with the journalist and the translator Roland Martin under the joint pseudonym Brone. The following year the writer sends the translation to Konstanty A. Jeleński. In the Cafe Rex Witold Gombrowicz meets Juan Carlos Gómez, one of his most loyal friends. Visits La Caba?a, Goya, Mar del Plata and Rosario. The trip down the Paraná River. The writer receives a grant from the Congress for Cultural Freedom, as well as a grant from the International Rescue Committee.



Visits La Caba?a.



In the beginning of the year Witold Gombrowicz attempts to correspond with his older brother Jerzy Gombrowicz. The Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy company publishes “Ferdydurke” (predated to 1956), while Wydawnictwo Literackie publishes Bacacay (the complemented reissue of his debut “Memoirs of a Time of Immaturity”). In Paris, Instytut Literacki publishes Diary 1953-1956. Gombrowicz buys a new typewriter. He refuses a request from the director Tadeusz Byrski for permission to stage “The Marriage” at the Kielce-Radom Theatre. Continues work on “Operetta”. Asian flu spreads in the autumn – the writer travels for a stay at La Caba?a for health reasons. He travels to Tandil in October and again in December. The Polish premiere of “Ivona, Princess of Burgundia”, directed by Halina Mikołajska at the Teatr Dom Wojska Polskiego (later the Teatr Dramatyczny) in Warsaw. Gombrowicz continues work on “Pornografia”. The Czytelnik company publishes “Trans-Atlantyk” and “The Marriage”,  including commentary by the author.



Witold Gombrowicz spends the New Year holiday at La Caba?a. He visits Necochea and Quequén on the ocean. He completes work on “Pornografia”. Travels to Tandil. New friends: Mariano Betelú (Flor, Flor de Quilombo), Jorge Di Paola (Dipi), Jorge Rubén Vilela (Marlon), Jorge Álvarez (Bufa), Néstor Tirri, Juan Carlos Ferreyra. First asthma attack. Gombrowicz suffers from quinsy. He travels to Santiago del Estero, where he meets the Santucho brothers, Francisco René and Roberto, later the leader of the People’s Revolutionary Army (ERP). “Ivona, Princess of Burgundia”, with illustrations by Tadeusz Kantor, is published by the Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy. The drama itself is staged the same year by the Cricot ensemble. Returns to work on “Operetta” (first version). Julliard publishes the French translation of “Ferdydurke”, with a forward by Maurice Nadeau, translation by Brone. The first chapter of “Ferdydurke” appears in “Les Lettres Nouvelles”. François Bondy publishes an article devoted to the novel in “Neue Zürcher Zeitung”, while Jean Bloch-Michel writes an article in “Gazette de Lausanne”. Gombrowicz’s visit to Tandil. Between the years 1958 and 1961 Witold Gombrowicz writes pieces for Radio Free Europe about Argentina, published after his death as “Polish Memories. Argentinean Peregrinations” (Paris: Instytut Literacki, 1977).



“Preuves” publishes parts of “Diary”, with a foreword by Konstanty A. Jeleński. Witold Gombrowicz visits Tandil, where he undergoes a homeopathic treatment. He continues work on “Operetta”. The writer delivers a question-and-answer session about Martin Heidegger. Reviews of “Ferdydurke” appear in “Les Lettres Nouvelles” (Mario Maurin), as well as “La Nouvelle Revue Française” (Pierre Bettencourt). Gombrowicz buys a machine for injection-molding of plastic, which he lends to Maria and Karol Świeczewski, operators of a small factory. Problems with liver and allergies. He submits documents required for obtaining Argentinean citizenship. On his birthday Witold Gombrowicz finds out about the death of his mother, Marcela Antonina Gombrowicz, on July 27th. Problems with nerves. He writes “Polish memories” for Radio Free Europe. The writer is invited to breakfast at the French Embassy. He is overwhelmed by his passion for music.





Visit to Tandil.



Fatigue in Tandil. Witold Gombrowicz completes the homeopathic treatment undertaken for his throat. He suffers from a nervous condition as well as a liver ailment. Writes the third act of “Operetta”. His passion for music does not abate. “Pornografia” published by Instytut Literacki. Lectures on philosophy in La Plata. First German publication of “Ferdydurke” (by Günther Neske Verlag, translated by Rudolf Richter, pseudonym Walter Tiel). Visit to Montevideo with Jorge Di Paola. François Bondy visits Buenos Aires. Polish premiere of “The Marriage,” directed by Jerzy Jarocki at the Student Theatre of the Silesian Polytechnic. Visit to La Caba?a. Acute insomnia. The writer begins composing a new work. Interview with “Clarin” (Zdzisław Bau, pseudonym Pat Leroy). Parts of “Diary” published in “Der Monat” and “Cuadernos”.  Gombrowicz invests in stock.



Witold Gombrowicz visits La Caba?a, then spends some time at the ocean, including a stay at Quequén. He learns that his sister Irena Gombrowicz died on January 9th. “Ferdydurke” is published in England (MacGibbon & Kee) as well as in the United States (Harcourt, Brace & World), translated by Eric Mosbacher. “The Observer” and “The Times” publish positive reviews. The writer receives an award of $200 from “Kultura”. Problems with his nerves. He continues writing “Cosmos”. Financial losses due to falling stock prices. Italian edition of “Ferdydurke” (Einaudi, translation by Sergio Miniussi). Gombrowicz accepts an invitation from the Technische Universität Berlin, which is organizing readings of works by foreign authors. He continues writing “Cosmos” and listens to Mozart. German edition of “Diary 1953-1956” (Günther Neske Verlag, translated by Rudolf Richter, pseud. Walter Tiel). Return to work on “Cosmos”. Witold Gombrowicz cancels the trip to West Germany, concerned about his health and finances. He visits his friends Alicja and Silvio Giangrande, in Hurlingham. In December he travels to Piriápolis accompanied by Juan Carlos Gómez.



Visit to Piriápolis (Uruguay).



The writer struggles with “Cosmos”. He refuses permission for a Polish television adaptation of “A Premeditated Crime”. “Pornografia” is rejected by both companies that published “Ferdydurke” in English. The Dutch edition of “Ferdydurke” (Moussault, translation by Willem A. Maijer, Herman von der Klei, Chris de Ruig). French edition of “Pornografia” (Julliard). In the spring Jorge Vilela and Mariano Betelú introduce the editor of “Eco Contemporáneo” and a member of the Mufados group of young poets writing in Buenos Aires – Miguel Grinberg to Witold Gombrowicz. (The following year a special issue will appear devoted to the writer). Nomination for The Prix Formentor. Interview in “La Prensa” (Jorge Calvetti). Problems with lungs and bronchial passages. Article devoted to “The Marriage” in “Il Mondo” (Nicola Chiaromonte). Visit by Fr. Janusz St. Pasierb (his interview with Witold Gombrowicz will be published in 1969 in “Tygodnik Powszechny”). PEN Club meeting in Buenos Aires, to which the writer is not invited. He visits San Isidro. Considers moving to Spain. “Diary 1957-1961” is published by Instytut Literacki. Gombrowicz continues work on “Cosmos”.


Visit to Piriápolis.



The writer works on “Cosmos”. On his last day in Piriápolis, February 28th, he receives an  invitation for a half-year fellowship from the Ford Foundation and the Senate of the City of West Berlin, facilitated by Konstanty A. Jeleński. Witold Gombrowicz departs Argentina on April 8th aboard the “Federico Costa”. He reaches Cannes on Sunday, April 22nd, after having taken a short walk through Barcelona during a brief stop at the port. The next day Gombrowicz travels by train to Paris, where he stays in the Hotel Helder near the Opéra Garnier Paris. He remains in the French capital until May 16th. Interviews with “Le Figaro” (Guy Le Clec’h), L’Express (Anne Guérin) and Arts (Mathieu Galey). Silhouette of the author by Piotr Rawicz in “Le Monde”. Marc Pierret announces his return to Europe in “France-Observateur”. Witold Gombrowicz visits the Louvre with the writer Héctor Bianciotti. A guest at many receptions and breakfasts. On May 16th the writer departs for West Berlin, where he resides in turn at the Akademie der Künste, the Hotel Tusculum at Kurfürstendamm 68, an apartment at Hohenzollerndamm 36, as well as at Bartningallee 11/13. Premiere in Paris of “The Marriage”, directed by Jorge Lavelli (May 14-15) at the Théâtre Récamier – applause for the directing (Grand Prix in the Concours des Jeunes Compagnies), while the text was received with criticism. The performance will be repeated on January 7th the following year. In spite of invitations, Witold Gombrowicz will decide not to travel to Paris to take part in the ceremonies. The play receives the Prix du Cercle International de la Jeune Critique. He completes “Diary”, detailing the journey from Argentina and the sojourn in Paris. Outlines the end of “Cosmos”. Frequents Cafe Zunts, where he attempts to organize his own “table”, but without success. The writer becomes acquainted with Hellmut Jeasrich from “Der Monat”, the literary director of “Die Welt”, as well as Nicolas Nabokov, the secretary general of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, whose support will gain him an extension of his award for another half year. He becomes acquainted with the Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann and the German author Günter Grass. Homesick for Argentine. Problems with his heart. Part of his “Diary” devoted to the transatlantic journey appears in “Der Monat”. Excerpts of “Pornografia” are published in “Akzente”. Witold Gombrowicz begins writing “Diary Paris-Berlin”. He takes part in a meeting with students organized by professor Walter Höllerer, during which he refuses to read excerpts of “Ferdydurke” in German. Press campaign against Gombrowicz begun in Poland with a feuilleton published in “Życie Literackie” by Barbara Witek-Swinarska “About Distance, a Conversation with a Master”. Comments made by the writer are interpreted as an expression of lack of solidarity with the war experience of the Polish people. “Pornografia” appears in a German edition by Günther Neske Verlag. “Les Lettres Nouvelles” publishes excerpts from “Diary” devoted to Bruno Schulz. Witold Gombrowicz delivers a lecture for young practitioners of literature at a Literarisches Colloquium conducted by Walter Hasenclever. Returns to work on “Cosmos”. Jorge Di Paola’s dramatic poem “Hernán” appears this year, with a preface by the writer Italian translation of “Ivona, Princess of Burgundia” is published.



Premiere of “The Marriage” (directed by Jorge Lavelli) in Théâtre Récamier on January 7th in Paris. Writing in “France-Observateur”, Witold Gombrowicz distances himself from the Marxist interpretation of the drama suggested by Lucien Goldmann. Difficulties completing “Cosmos” and the part of “Diary” related to his stay in Berlin. He catches the flu. French  publication of “Diary 1953-1956”. Problem with his heart. “Diary” is named the best book of the month in Paris. Extended fevers, dyspnoea due to asthma. The writer spends two months in the Hygiea clinic at Fuggerstrasse 23. Asthma intensifies. He considers a trip to Spain and from there back to Argentina. Conversations with Rolf Thiele about a film version of “Pornografia”. Gombrowicz plans a trip to the Pyrenees with his nephew, Józef Gombrowicz (Rysio), the son of Janusz Gombrowicz. On May 17th the writer flies out of Tegel Airport. Lissa Bauer, Otto Schily, Christos Jaochimedes, Zuzanna Fels and Tadeusz Kulik see him off at the airport. Konstanty A. Jeleński and Józef Gombrowicz greet him upon arrival at Orly. Lodges for a week at Maisons-Laffitte, the headquarters of “Kultura”. He and Józef leave by plane for Royat, stopping temporarily at the Hotel Terminus in Clermont-Ferrand, seeking a room in Royat without success. Witold Gombrowicz turns to Jerzy Giedroyc, requesting several weeks of lodging. Refused, he finds lodging, after a brief period in Paris, thanks to Konstanty A. Jeleński and Maurice Nadeau, on May 28th in the house of the Cercle Culturel in Royaumont, located in a former Cistercian monastery. The writer reads the “Memoirs” of Claude Henri de Saint-Simon, he is well-known for his love of intellectual duels. In Royaumont Witold Gombrowicz meets his future wife, Marie-Rita Labrosse, who is working there on a dissertation on Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (defended in May, 1968). Gombrowicz dines with the publisher Maurice Nadeau, as well as with Genevi?ve Serreau, the future translator (with Konstanty A. Jeleński) of “Ivona, Princess of Burgundia”, “Operetta” and “Trans-Atlantyk” into French. He discusses the phenomenology of existence with Jean Wahl. Finds the peace and quiet needed to work on the “Diary” related his stay in Berlin. His heart condition improves, yet the writer continues to suffer from nerves. In spite of the stabilisation of his breathing, he is able to move only slowly. His theatre works appear in Germany. Second editions of “Ferdydurke” are published in France and Argentina. Gombrowicz discovers there is a possibility of returning to Argentina. Due to the lack of available cabins on the ships leaving in September, he initially considers returning in October. Soon he considers spending the winter in Spain. “Cosmos” remains unfinished. At the beginning of September Witold Gombrowicz stays for ten days in Neuilly at the home of his friend Elżbieta Orel. On September 18th, he flies to Nice, later he stays at the Hôtel des Iles in Cabris near Cannes. The following day he moves to the room in which Gide lived in La Messugui?re in Cabris. His companion is Rita Labrosse. Gombrowicz finishes “Diary Paris-Berlin”. “Pornografia” is published in Italy and the Netherlands, “Ferdydurke” in Argentina, “Trans-Atlantyk” in West Germany. Breathing improves, but he is bothered by nervous stomach pain. On October 25 Witold Gombrowicz moves with Rita Labrosse into the Villa Alexandrine at 36 Place du Grand-Jardin in Vence. He finishes “Cosmos” in December. He develops an idea for a new version of “Operetta”.




Stomach ailment gradually improves. Witold Gombrowicz writes a new version of “Operetta”. He continues contemplating a return to Argentina. The writer turns to his brother with a request for cyanide. In the spring he abandons the idea of leaving Europe. The writer Sławomir Mrożek and the artist Jan Lenica visit. Friendship with Maria and Bohdan Paczowski, architect, whom Witold Gombrowicz visits with Rita Labrosse in July in Chiavari on the Italian Riviera. The writer and his friend stay in nearby Lavagna. An article by Madeleine Chapsal devoted to Gombrowicz is printed in “L’Express”. “Cosmos” is published by Instytut Literacki. “Diary Paris-Berlin” is published in West Germany, eliciting reviews ranging from sarcastic-ironic to enthusiastic. Witold Gombrowicz continues writing “Operetta”, attempting to sing parts of it. New translations: “Ivona, Princess of Burgundia” and “The Marriage” in France, “Ferdydurke” in Yugoslavia. “Ivona, Princess of Burgundia” is performed at the festival in Chalon-sur-Saône (directed by Jorge Lavelli). In September it premieres at the Théâtre de France (Odeon). In November Alf Sjöberg directs a production at The Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm. The condition of the writer’s stomach improves, but he suffers from bronchial catarrh and cardiac problems. Receives a little dog as a present, which he names Psina; a cat found during Rita Labrosse and Witold Gombrowicz’s travels, living with them for a few winter months, is called Autostop. The Stockholm production of “Ivona, Princess of Burgundia” is a success. In December, together with his friend, the writer corrects the French translation of “Cosmos”.



Visit by Artur Sandauer, an advocate for the presence of Gombrowicz’s works in postwar critical discourse in Poland. Concept for the final act of “Operetta”. Inexpensive editions of Witold Gombrowicz’s work are published, establishing the writer’s status as a classic: “Diary 1953-1956” in West Germany, “Ferdydurke” in England. German edition of “Cosmos”. Gombrowicz befriends Maria Sperling and Józef Jarema, both painters. Acquaintance with the sculptor Jean Dubuffet, creating at the time his most famous series “L’Hourloupe”. The writer finishes “Operetta”, but not without difficulty. Report on French television. Interviews for “Die Welt” (Valentin Polcuch), “Le Figaro littéraire” (Daniel Albo) as well as “Nice-Matin” (Arlette Sayac). Publication of “Diary 1957-1961” (Instytut Literacki). Gombrowicz writes “On Dante”. He receives a visit from Jean Wahl. At the end of the year, Instytut Literacki publishes “Diary1961-1966” and “Operetta” in a single volume. In late autumn the writer suffers from head colds, fevers, toothaches and heart problems. He stops leaving the house. In December Gombrowicz writes an interview with himself for “La Quinzaine Littéraire”. English and Norwegian translations of “Pornografia”, as well as French, Italian and English translations of “Cosmos”. 



The writer does not leave the house – his heart weakens, asthma increases. The writers Czesław Miłosz and Ernesto Sábato visit. Exceptionally, Witold Gombrowicz goes to the beach at Juan-les-Pins with Alastair Hamilton, the translator of the English edition of “Pornografia” and future translator of “Ferdydurke” and “Cosmos”. Awarded The Prix Formentor (Prix international des Éditeurs – Formentor) for “Cosmos”. Self-interview “I was the First Structuralist” in “La Quinzaine Littéraire”. Works on A Kind of Testament with Dominique de Roux, author, editor and co-founder of the collection “Cahiers de L’Herne”, a series of monographs devoted to writers and poets. Visit from the writer Jean-Marie Gustav Le Clézio as well as the poet Gaston Miron, friend of Rita Labrosse and admirer of “Diary”. First editions of “Ferdydurke” in Scandinavia (Sweden and Norway), Japan and Slovenia. Editions of other works in the Netherlands, Spain, and Italy. “Bacacay” and a new edition of “Pornografia” are published in France.


Janusz Gombrowicz dies in Warsaw. L’Herne publishes “On Dante”. Witold Gombrowicz completes “A Kind of Testament” and contributes to the preparation of a monograph devoted to his work (the collection “Cahiers de L’Herne”). The writer corresponds with Jean Dubuffet. Programmes for Swiss and Italian television. French translation of “Diary Paris-Berlin” and Argentinean edition of “Diary” devoted to his Argentinean period (“Diario Argentino”). The Belfond company publishes “A Kind of Testament”. Translation of Witold Gombrowicz’s works into Swedish, Italian, Spanish and Dutch. “The Marriage” staged at Berlin’s Schiller Theater, directed by Ernst Schröeder. The writer suffers a heart attack on November 18th. On December 28th Witold Gombrowicz marries Marie-Rita Labrosse.


In March the couple move to the villa Val-Clair in the outskirts of Vence. Thirteen philosophy lectures for his wife and Dominique de Roux published as “A Guide to Philosophy in Six Hours and Fifteen Minutes” (1971). Programme for French television. “A Kind of Testament” is published by Instytut Literacki. Continuing work related to the planned publication of the “Cahier de L’Herne”, he prepares a brief autobiography, which he does not manage to finish. “Operetta” is published in French. Translations of works into Norwegian, Swedish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch and English. Watches the first landing of astronauts on the Moon.  Passes away on July 24th after suffering pulmonary failure and a heart attack in his sleep. “Final Interview” with Witold Gombrowicz will be published in September in “Kultura”.                            

Instytucja współprowadzona przez Samorząd Województwa Mazowieckiego oraz Ministra Kultury i Dziedzictwa Narodowego

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