Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

In his preface to Pornografia, Gombrowicz states that the novel “springs from Ferdydurke” (1937; English translation, 1961). In his words, this earlier novel is about the way “youth, biologically superior, physically more beautiful, has no trouble in charming and conquering the adult, already poisoned by death.” In Ferdydurke, the author says he struggled against immaturity and tried to show through humor and sarcasm the ridiculousness of an obsession with youth. In Pornografia, on the other hand, it could be argued (he suggests) that he is “in love with immaturity.” In the latter work he has “given up the distance lent by humor. It is not a satire but a noble, a classical novel.” The themes of the two novels are virtually identical, but Pornografia is more profound, Gombrowicz implies, because he has admitted that he himself is the source of his theme. It is not something he has observed outside himself.

By adopting the guise of personal confession in his preface, and by calling his narrator Witold, Gombrowicz paradoxically creates another kind of fiction, which is more real precisely because he admits that it comes out of his own experience. Yet he is surely having some fun with his reader and putting distance between himself and his creation when he uses his preface to become his own critic: “The novel of two middle-aged men and a couple of adolescents; a sensually metaphysical novel. What...

(The entire section is 457 words.)