Witold Gombrowicz

From “Cosmos”

"I was drinking tea and smoking a cigarette, and my eyes abandoned the cork and fell on a nail on the wall near the shelf, and from there they wandered to the cupboard, counted the mouldings on it, and then, sleepy and exhausted, started examining less accessible places over the wardrobe, where the wall-paper was frayed, and then reached the white desert of the ceiling. But a little farther away, near the window, the tedious whiteness changed into a darker, wrinkled zone which had been affected by damp, and inspection revealed a complicated geography of continents, gulfs, islands, peninsulas, strange concentric circles like moon craters, and other oblique, fugitive lines."

"There was an oppressive profusion of possible links and clues. How many sentences can be composed with the 26 letters of the alphabet? How many meanings could be deduced from these hundreds of weeds, clumps of earth, and other details?"

"It will be difficult to continue this story of mine. I don’t even know if it is a story. It is difficult to call this a story, this constant ... clustering and falling apart ... of elements …"

"And so it was this coincidence that was partially (oh, only partially!) of my own doing—and that’s exactly what was so difficult, awful, misleading, I could never know to what degree I was the perpetrator, configuring the configurations around me, oh, the criminal keeps returning to the scene of the crime!"

“Agglomeration, whirl and welter ... too much, too much, too much, crowding, movement, heaping, crashing, pushing, a general hurly-burly, huge mastodons filling space that, in the blinking of an eye, would break up into thousands of details, combinations, masses of rock, brawls, in a clumsy chaos, and suddenly all those details would again collect into an overpowering shape!”

“The panoramas persisted for a while, then something new emerged, pressing on, it was so naked, or entangled, or glittering, at times heroic, there were precipices, indurations, crevices, variations of hanging rocks, then, pastoral scenes, for example, in ascending, descending rhythms composed of bushes, trees, wounds, lesions, and subsidences, floated in, sweet at times, at times lacey.”

“Indeed, I was looking at this hanging man just as I had looked in those bushes at the sparrow.

And pam, pam, pam, pam! One, two, three, four! The hanged sparrow, the hanging stick, the strangled-hanged cat, Ludwik hanged. How neatly it fit together! What consistency! A stupid corpse was becoming a logical corpse—though the logic was both heavy-handed ... and too much my own ... personal ... so ... separate ... private.

I had nothing left but to think. I thought. In spite of everything I strained to turn it into a readable story and—I thought—what if he were the one who had hanged the sparrow? He drew the arrows, hanged the stick, indulged in these pranks ... some kind of mania, the mania of hanging that led him here, to hang himself”

"We might have spotted one sign, but how many more that we had not spotted might be concealed in the natural order of things?"

"Surrounding reality was now contaminated, so to speak, by the possibility of innumerable hidden meanings"

"What are you doing here?"
"Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing," he replied and smiled blissfully.
"What's so amusing?"
"What? Nothing! Exactly that: nothing! Ha, that's a language game, if you please, hm . I'm amused by `nothing', mark you, Your Reverence, my venerable companion and merry-maker and horse-drawn carriage, because `nothing' is exactly what we do all our lives. A fellow stands, sits, talks, writes and . nothing. A fellow buys, sells, marries, doesn't marry and - nothing. A fellow sitzum on a tree stump and - nothing. Like bubbles in a glass of soda water."
"Berg! Berging with a berg into a berg, mind you-blumberging with a berg ... Ti, ri, ri!"

You, sir, are berging my daughter for yourself! With an on-the-sly berg, with a lovey-doveyberg, and you, my dearie sir, would like to bemberg yourself right under her skirt and straight into her marriage as the lovieberg number one! Ti-ri-ti! Ti-ri-ti!"

Back to the database of writers | Send more excerpts | Back to Literature | Home