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Cosmos [Hardcover]

Witold Gombrowicz , Danuta Borchardt
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 10, 2005 0300108486 978-0300108484
A dark, quasi-detective novel, Cosmos follows the classic noir motif to explore the arbitrariness of language, the joke of human freedom, and man’s attempt to bring order out of chaos in his psychological life.
Published in 1965, Cosmos is the last novel by Witold Gombrowicz (1904–1969) and his most somber and multifaceted work. Two young men meet by chance in a Polish resort town in the Carpathian Mountains. Intending to spend their vacation relaxing, they find a secluded family-run pension. But the two become embroiled first in a macabre event on the way to the pension, then in the peculiar activities and psychological travails of the family running it. Gombrowicz offers no solution to their predicament.
Cosmos is translated here for the first time directly from the Polish by Danuta Borchardt, translator of Ferdydurke.

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* This dark, surreal tale of two holiday boarders in a Polish country house explores the bizarre lengths to which people at loose ends will go to create meaning in their lives. As one boarder puts it, "When you're bored, God only knows what you might imagine!" The two young men, who meet on the road, are drawn to a particular rooming house because a sparrow has been hanged nearby on a piece of wire hooked over a branch. Upon this avian crime scene, the men soon build great nests of conspiracy and obsession, following arrows they perceive in ceiling stains and rifling through other people's rooms for such clues as a nail pounded partway into a wall just above the floor. But while they might not solve their mystery, the boarders do manage to pierce the emotional lives of their host family and uncover the odd ways they deal with their own existential predicaments. Narrated by one of the boarders in a rambling, repetitive, stream-of-consciousness, sometimes bleakly comic style that heightens the tension as the man becomes more and more unglued by and enmeshed in his mad investigation, this 1965 novel--one of four the Nobel-nominated Gombrowicz wrote before his death in 1969--will hold special appeal for fans of Camus' The Stranger. In this deft new translation, Cosmos, appearing in the U.S. for the first time, reveals itself as a challenging but important work. Frank Sennett
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


“Borchardt’s graceful, powerful, and inventive translation is a great gift to all lovers of Witold Gombrowicz’s quirky prose.”—Jaroslaw Anders

(Jaroslaw Anders)

Praise for Ferdydurke:
“This promises to be, at last, the English translation of Ferdydurke that we have all been waiting for.”—Stanislaw Baranczak, Harvard University
(Stanislaw Baranczak)

Praise for Ferdydurke:
“Extravagant, brilliant, disturbing, brave, funny, wonderful. . . . Long live its sublime mockery.”—Susan Sontag
(Susan Sontag)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (October 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300108486
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300108484
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #648,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the great absurd novels of the 20th century April 15, 2006
By Ignacio
I rercently reread "Cosmos" and it still holds up. Over the years I have passed this novel on to goths, punks, high school drop-outs, violinists and math wizards -- and it never disappoints. It has a deadpan, rather menacing tone that one cannot put down.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Literary Onanism December 20, 2011
Gombrowicz was no more than a name to me until I read this new translation of his last novel, first published in 1965. It is an extraordinary piece of work, placing him firmly in the middle of mid-century European avant-garde thought, especially in France, where he spent his last years; marooned in Argentina in 1939 by the War, he never returned to Poland. Danuta Borchardt, the prizewinning translator of this volume, writes a three-page introduction explaining the difficulties she encountered. In some ways, I resented this, feeling that translation should ideally be invisible. But I was also glad of it, for I would not otherwise have realized that Gombrowicz's extraordinary tricks of style -- ranging from strings of disconnected words to made-up baby language -- were his and not his translator's. Here, from the first page, is an example of the former style: "Sweat. I'm behind him, pant legs, heels, sand, we're plodding on, plodding on, ruts, clods of dirt, glassy pebbles flashing, the glare, the heat humming, quivering, everything is black in the sunlight, cottages, fences, fields, woods, the road, this march, from where, what for, a lot could be said, actually...." And here an ejaculation of the latter kind: "Cool on top but ready to pop! 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!" Words gone wild.

Plot? Yes, sort of. The narrator, a young man also called Witold, hikes into the Polish countryside with an acquaintance for a two-week stay in a family pension.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pathos and whimsy December 21, 2011
By J.M.
I see this novel as a masterpiece within a specific tradition, entirely apart from the popular palate, but not alone. That is, the tradition of Bruno Schulz, Roald Dahl, Kafka, Murakami, Kobo Abe to name a few. A shuffling, disturbed pace, but at the same time hilarious, much like "The Street of Crocodiles". Not a book to decrypt but to simply enjoy- let the muttering misguided characters get lost in the allegories of cracked-plaster text, lost in the mystery of both a bucolic Polish village and their own sanity. If this book were an allegory, I would look at it as a display of Gombrowicz's frustration with "Poland's inferiority complex". But as I said, for me, it is an engaging detective story, no more no less.
I recommend starting with this before heading on to Ferdydurke, Pornografia and the rest.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars outstanding February 9, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
A funnier novel of ideas doesn't exist. Mr Gombrowicz's observations on the relationship between meaning, inanimate intent, absurdity and the sometimes excruciating banality of ordinary life are hilarious, and I'm not just bemming the berg.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars July 28, 2013
By R
Format:Kindle Edition
I just finished reading this for my book group. I know that some others have found it boring and repetitive, but I couldn't put it down. This writer manages to do in 190 pages that others fail to achieve in 400. These flawed characters seem real, none more real than the deeply flawed narrator. I can't wait to discuss it with everyone. I don't want to give away spoilers, so I will simply say that even the nothing that you expect to happen makes for gripping reading. I also found the translation amazing and despite this book being published in 1968, it seems fresh and current to me. If you are interested in flawed characters and distorted reality, you will enjoy this.
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