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Gombrowicz and Faust

  • Allen Kuharski


My introduction to Jan Kott was through his Theatre Notebook 1947–1967, which for me still captures the paradoxes of the man and his work. For all his cosmopolitanism, his work on Shakespeare, and his many years of life in exile, Kott remains very much an embodiment of the vitality of the post-war Polish theatre he helped to establish and later promoted abroad – this in spite of his disclaimer of being any kind of ‘expert’ on the contemporary Polish stage. Kott has always shown the best qualities of a theatre artist: lack of pretension, seemingly boundless energy, an immediacy of engagement with both theatrical performance and other people. Perhaps even more in person than in his writing, he possesses what Joseph Chaikin has called ‘presence’. As when I first met Kott in the mid 1980s, while Poland was still under martial law and he was unable to obtain a travel visa on account of public statements he had made regarding the Jaruzelski regime, he has remained a key connection to certain values both in the theatre and in Poland itself, and these he has best represented when they have been most needed.



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A version of this article first appeared in the quarterly 2B (Ann Arbor), Vol. II, No. 1–2 (1994).

1. Gombrowicz, Witold, Diary, Volume III, trans. Vallee, Lillian (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1993).

2. Gombrowicz, Witold, Dziennik 1967–69, Blonski, Jan and Jarzbski, Jerzy, general eds. (Krakòw: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1992); Entretiens de Dominique de Roux avec Gombrowicz (Paris: Editions Pierre Belfond, 1968); and A Kind of Testament, ed. de Roux, Dominique, trans. Hamilton, Alastair, intro. Maurice Nadeau (London: Calder and Boyars, 1973).

3. This is confirmed by Vallee, Lillian, the translator of the Diary into English.

4. See Holmgren, Beth, First Person Liberties: the Persona in the Work of Witold Gombrowicz, dissertation, Harvard University, 1987, p. 33.

5. Gombrowicz, , p. 178. See also Gombrowicz, , Dziennik, 1961–1966 (Paris: Instytut Literacki, 1966).

6. Gombrowicz, , p. 199. See also Gombrowicz, , Dzeila Zebrane, tom VIII: Dziennik, 1961–1966 (Paris: Instytut Literacki, 1971), p. 214.

7. Gombrowicz, Witold, Diary, Volume I, trans. Vallee, Lillian (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1988), p. 130–1.

8. Gombrowicz, , Diary, Volume III, p. 108.

9. Gombrowicz, , ‘Historia (Fragmenty)’, Kultura (Paris), 10 1975, p. 2855, available in English translation by Kuharski, Allen and Bukowski, Dariusz, in the forthcoming inaugural issue of Periphery: Polish-American Academic Journal (Ann Arbor), I, No. 1 (Winter 19941995).

10. Gombrowicz, , Diary, Volume III, p. 188.

11. Gombrowicz, Witold, Slub [The Marriage], directed by Jarocki, Jerzy, designed by Juk-Kowarski, Jerzy, Teatr, Stary, Krakòw, , 20 04 1991.

Gombrowicz and Faust

  • Allen Kuharski


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