Diary, Vol. I: 1953-1956; Paris, New York: 1982-1984

In This Review

Diary, Vol. I: 1953-1956

By Witold Gombrowicz
Northwestern University Press, 1988
227 pp. $39.95

Paris, New York: 1982-1984

By Kazimierz Brandys
Random House, 1988
180 pp. $17.95

Witold Gombrowicz came from the Polish gentry and was a well-known writer in Poland before the war. He was stranded in Argentina when Poland was invaded in 1939; he never returned. In Argentina he led a strange, impoverished, involuted existence. His diary-really a journal-consists of polemics conducted with other emigré Polish writers, some observations about high and low life in Argentina, and some interesting observations about Poland itself: its weaknesses during its brief independence of 1918-1939, and the perils to literature and politics of unregenerate Polish nationalism. This is the first of three projected volumes of this extraordinary "diary." By contrast, Kazimierz Brandys came to prominence as a novelist in Poland during the Stalinist 1950s and was a member of the Communist Party until 1966. Then, over 70 years old in 1981, he went into exile with his wife. His bewilderment in New York (he knew little English) and his efforts to keep in touch with events in Poland during the rise and crushing of Solidarity (he had been close to several of the leaders of the dissident group KOR) make a moving and often wrenching story. The tragedy of Poland is vividly etched on these two lives.

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