“It’s your wife, it’s your cadaver.”
The Drama of the Baron and Baroness was published in the daily Kurier Poranny in 1933, shortly after the publication of Witold Gombrowicz’s first book Memoirs from a Time of Immaturity. Witold Gombrowicz never inserted this text into any of his other works. It can now be found in the volume Varia and in the annex of Bacacay.
In this grotesque story, a husband is betrayed—but, as is always the case with Witold Gombrowicz, this is presented counter to the melodramatic tradition: it is the husband who forces his wife, against her will, to betray him, in the name of dubious morals. Witold Gombrowicz interprets the theme of jealousy and conjugal passion set during the early 20th century with a caustic tone. He inverts conventional ideas on the topic, distilling the story with venom: love is nothing but cruelty. Bourgeois morals always tend toward perversion. Physical passion transforms into disgust for the woman who has become a sacrificial victim of this very passion.
In this text, we can detect a response from Witold Gombrowicz to the novel Jealousy and Medicine by Michał Choromański (1904-1972), which also came out in 1933. A bestseller and the literary scandal of the year, this passionate story of a husband betrayed by his wife was held in high esteem by Witold Gombrowicz: its ironical and parodic analysis of social, everyday, and erotic conventions of the bourgeois milieu truly seduced him.
The same year, Witold Gombrowicz published an article called The Attitude of New Writers (Choromański, Rudnicki, Gombrowicz) under a pseudonym, in which he compared himself to the writer of Jealousy and Medicine. The praise he gave Choromański and his analysis of the work contain hidden elements applying, without a doubt, to Gombrowicz’s own work.
Witold Gombrowicz’s short “Drama of the Baron and Baroness” also appears to be a very personal interpretation of a motif employed by Choromański with brilliance, a pastiche in which all psychological realism is eliminated in favor of stinging irony.
The qualities highlighted by Witold Gombrowicz in Choromański’s style resemble an auto-commentary on his own literary ambition at the time, as well as his fascination for the “physiology” that Ivona, Princess of Burgundia, which was is working on at this time, will ultimately reflect..
Excerpt: “Let’s go!” the Baron finally said. “This cannot go on. I learned today that he tried to kill himself. Are you capable of understanding that pushing someone to suicide is worse than strangling them with one’s own hands? This whippersnapper without principles will lose us both, and himself with us. My decision is made—we cannot overburden our conscience with such a terrible responsibility. Because there’s no other solution, too bad—I give you my permission. I accept. And you, in the name of this superior necessity, do what you must do, that is to say, what your dirty femininity dictates you to.”
From the Private Diary of Jerome Poniżalski