PORNOGRAFIA BY WITOLD GOMBROWICZ

One of my blogging friends {I don’t have many for perhaps obvious reasons] described my reviews a while ago as caustic. Aye, maybe they are. It’s a description, or opinion, that I encounter a lot, and it’s funny to me because I feel myself as though I’m just, y’know, kidding around and yet I appear to offend people quite often, without much effort. Maybe my sense of humour, my sense of fun is, um, pretty niche. Indeed, I once had a record 10 friends unfriend me on my [now deleted] facebook account on the back of a joke about kids. Here is the joke:

Did anyone hear about the kids that were given cocaine in their trick or treat bags this Halloween? The police are saying that it was an accident, which is true, as I meant to give them cyanide.

DISCLAIMER: I do not advocate giving children drugs, or even cyanide.

I wouldn’t like to say whether my offending these people was because I am an arsehole or because they are touchy and humourless [and I wouldn’t like you to spam the comments of this review with your opinion on the matter either], but it doesn’t bode well when reviewing a book that is a macabre tale of murder and mayhem instigated by two men with an erotic fixation with youth. Oh well.

In an effort to give you an idea of what to expect from Gombrowicz’s deadly duo let me utilise a few visual resources. First of all, does anyone remember this guy?

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Well, imagine two of him. Now imagine them older, less energetic, but even more devious. Perhaps, for good measure, add some of this lady to the mix:

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Hell, why not throw in a soupçon of this man while you’re at it:

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And, well, if you can imagine such a thing, such a pair, you might have some idea of what to expect.

Now, I can sense some of you might be feeling uneasy already, your arses might be starting to shift uncomfortably in your seats, so let’s, just for shit and giggles, crank it up a notch, and consider some of what these two men get up to. In short, Pornografia involves a couple of old geezers visiting a friend and developing an unhealthy interest in his young daughter and a young male acquaintance. Before long they are encouraging them to fondle each other [not quite what you’re thinking], to become closer, to perform for them, for their own enjoyment and titillation. We call this kind of thing grooming, these days, and at the heart of such behaviour is a desire for power over the [apparently] powerless, and, one could also say, a need to simultaneously posses and sully something more beautiful and purer than yourself. This being a novel featuring five-star weirdos these manipulations result in murder, as I mentioned earlier, but maybe not in the way one would expect.

The author claimed that Pornografia is a refinement of, a more sophisticated version of, his debut work Ferdydurke and the themes explored within it. Now, it’s not for me to contradict a genius [well, actually, it probably is], but I disagree. Ferdydurke is concerned with the nature of immaturity, and our obsession with being seen to be mature. This novel, however, turns the tables slightly, with the focus being more on the older generation and their obsession with, and admiration for, youth. There is an interesting, subtle, difference between the two ideas, and yet both seem to have some validity, are attitudes that are simultaneously prevalent in our society. One only needs to switch on a TV to be assaulted by images of nubile youngsters, be it Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus, who embody, or encapsulate both of Gombrowicz’s ideas: the young performer eager to appear mature beyond their years, and the erotic interest in them from people old enough to be their parents [don’t believe me? Those leaked Cyrus pictures weren’t blogged, and viewed, solely by 16 year olds], not to mention the way that these stars are manipulated by adults within the record industry etc.

In any case, I’ve rambled enough. In conclusion, Pornografia is impish, funny, intelligent, absurd, but suffused with an almost suffocating, bewildering, intensity. It is, let’s not kid ourselves, most certainly not a book for everyone. A little like my reviews then, I guess.

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