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Translating Gombrowicz’s Liminal Aesthetics


Pawel Wojtas

The book offers a novel attempt at recapitulating Gombrowicz’s aesthetics in the postmodern Anglo-American context. The research extends to English and American literary traditions in order to account for the ways the writer’s version of existentialism is interpreted in diverse contexts, generating alternative interpretations of his peculiar philosophy. Furthermore it demonstrates the ways in which textual indeterminacy and the nebulous notion of the Other underpin Gombrowicz’s text of existence. The final chapter undertakes to pair up the process of translation with the liminal act of participation. The translations of Gombrowicz’s selected works are juxtaposed to argue the extent to which his master tropes (fail to) preserve their otherness when translated into English, as well as to test the ways translation as a self-reflexive act responds to the otherness of texts determined by different hermeneutic conditions. This study intends to fill, if partially, some lacunae on the map of Gombrowicz’s Translation Studies and to inspire further debates on the related aspects of postmodern existentialism of his works.
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The present study commenced with surveying the state of current research in Polish Gombrowicz Studies with the intention of probing the critical standpoints that explore the writer’s oeuvre from an existentialist angle. The consolidated conclusions aiming at filling in the conceptual gaps in Polish criticism were subsequently juxtaposed with the parallel critical reception of Gombrowicz in the Anglo-American context. The comparative approach proved particularly vital for my work bearing in mind that the line of argumentation drew largely on poststructuralist hermeneutics informed by the assumption that the meaning of the text is defined by what the reader brings to the interpretative table. Namely, a hermeneutic study of the text dissects the textual fabric according to the reader’s experience, their cultural and historical background and assumptions.

Having aligned Gombrowicz’s text with a foreign hermeneutic perspective, I sought to examine in what ways Gombrowicz’s rhetoric, suffused with blind spots of otherness, inspired alternative interpretations of his fiction. The failure of the Anglo-American readership to assimilate Gombrowicz could be attributed to their relative indifference to Existentialism; which, although dominant in post-war Continental Europe, had a limited impact across the Atlantic and the Channel. In other words, if the Gombrowicz who conquered Europe was the one classed as a philosopher who augmented, or perhaps even pioneered, existentialism, British and American readers would sooner appreciate him as a playwright. The proposed conclusion calls for the interpretation of Gombrowicz as both a philosopher and writer, or rather as one beyond such disciplinary...

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