cover image Diary Volume 3

Diary Volume 3

Witold Gombrowicz. Northwestern University Press, $18 (215pp) ISBN 978-0-8101-0719-9

Restless, deracinated, eternally dissatisfied, Polish novelist/playwright Gombrowicz (1904-1969) swings between melancholy reverie and feverish, near-ecstatic risk-taking prose in this final volume of his celebrated diary. In self-imposed exile in Argentina, the cosmopolitan writer muses on the spiritual thinness of modern literature, poetry and music. He assails Jorge Luis Borges's writing as an example of ``unliving thought'' and views Sartre as an embodiment of the pathology of our unfree epoch. Returning to Europe in 1963 after a 24-year absence, Gombrowicz offers gleefully curmudgeonly observations on Paris and ponders the moral vacuum at the heart of postwar Germany's affluence. In 1966 he settles on the French Riviera. Spiked with jarring images dredged up from the subconscious, this intense self-portrait, though not as powerful as the two previous installments, is still a tremendous goad to the imagination, as Gombrowicz explores the metaphysics of good and evil and dissects people's tendency to escape themselves through immersion in religion, aesthetics, mysticism or politics. (May)