Professor Michał Głowiński, a specialist of Gombrowicz’s work, declared Pornografia impossible to summarize.
The novel’s action takes place in Poland during WWII. Frederick and Witold arrive at their friend Hippolytus’s country property, where Hippolytus is hiding a military deserter. In this atmosphere of violence and war, a voyeuristic game intermingles with the criminal intrigue centering around two assassins.
“What happens in Pornografia? We, Frederick and I, two middle-aged gentlemen, see a young couple, a girl and a boy, who seem to be made for each other, welded to each other with a striking and reciprocal sex appeal. But as far as they’re concerned they might not have even noticed it: it is drowned, we might say, in their youthful incapacity for fulfillment (the inexperience peculiar to their age). We, the older ones, are excited by it, we would like the charm to take shape. And, with due precautions, and keeping up appearances, we start to help them. But our efforts lead us nowhere, they founder in that sphere of pre-reality where they reside and which characterizes them—that ante-chamber of existence.”
—A Kind of Testament: Interviews with Dominique de Roux [Trans. Hamilton]
“This time, by kneeling down, he dispatched the Mass as one wrings the neck of a chicken and the Mass went on, by now mortally wounded and staggering like a drunkard. Ite, missa est. And ah, what a triumph! What a victory over the Mass! What pride! As though this liquidation represented a long-awaited end: alone, at last, all alone […]”
“One of the key scenes of the work is the one in the church where under the pressure of Frederick’s consciousness the Mass, together with God-the-Absolute, collapses. Then out of the darkness and emptiness of the cosmos comes a new divinity, earthy, sensual, underage, made up of two underdeveloped beings creating a closed world—because they attract one another.
“Another key scene is the deliberations preceding Siemian’s murder—the Adults are not in a state to commit murder because they know all too well what it is, what weight it has, and they must do it with the hands of minors. This murder must, therefore, be cast into a sphere of lightness, irresponsibility—only there does it become possible.”
—Diary, 1960 [Trans. Vallee] 1960
Stucture de La Pornographie
|I.||« Je vous conterai... »|
|II.||« Des bouquets d’arbres... »|
|III.||« La calèche cahotait... »|
|IV.||« La nuit se passa sans anicroche... »|
|V.||« Comment était-ce... »|
|VI.||« L’alcool. La vodka... »|
|VII.||« Ruda. Les deux véhicules déchargèrent... »|
|VIII.||« Frédéric, qui s’était agenouillé... »|
|IX.||« Ai-je pensé à vous dire... »|
|X.||« L’initiation d’Albert fut conforme... »|
|XI.||« Le lendemain Siemian parut au déjeuner... »|
|XII.||« Il ne reste plus grand-chose à raconter... »|