Bacacay Cover


By Witold Gombrowicz; Bill Johnston (Translator)

Archipelago Books, Hardcover, 9780972869294, 250pp.

Publication Date: October 1, 2004


"One of the great novelists of our century."--Milan Kundera

First published in 1957 in Poland, "Bacacay"(a nod to his street in Buenos Aires) is a collection of 12 short stories by Witold Gombrowicz (1904-1968), one of the major European literary figures of the 20th century. Stunningly original in both style and content, these stories are often hilarious yet have an undercurrent of profound moral disquiet and horror when the respectable turns slowly but inexorably into the outrageous, conveying both the horrors of upper-class life and the deepest anguish of the human condition. Gombrowicz has perfect pitch for language; he revels in linguistic play, combining words in extraordinary ways. The commonplace and the everyday are juxtaposed with the bizarre and unsettling to make a world in which unspeakable subconscious urges have a habit of poking through the surface of ordinary life, leaving permanent scars. "Bacacay"is a brilliant series of satires on the limitations, quirks and phobias of the upper class. In Gombrowicz's hands, words create worlds.

Witold Gombrowiczis the single most important Polish prose writer of the 20th century. He is best known for his novels "Ferdydurke"(1937), "Pornografia"(1960) and "Cosmos"(1966) and his plays "Princess Ivona"(1935) and "The Marriage"(1953). Gombrowicz left Poland in 1939, lived in Argentina for over 20 years, and died in France. In 1967, he was awarded the Prix Formentor. This is "Bacacay"'s first English language publication.

Bill Johnston is director of the Polish Studies Center at Indiana University. His translations include Gustaw Herling's "The Noonday Cemetery and Other Stories"(New Directions, 2003), Stefan Zeromski's "The Faithful River"(Northwestern, 1999), and Magdalena Tulli's "Dreams and Stones" (Archipelago Books, 2004).

About the Author
Witold Gombrowicz (1904-1969), the single most important Polish prose writer of the 20th century, spent much of his life in France and Argentina (Bacacay was the street he lived on in Buenos Aires). His novels include Ferdydurke, Trans-Atlantyk, Cosmos, and Pornografia. Awarded the Prix Formentor (1967). Johnston is Director of the Polish Studies Center at Indiana University. His translations include Gustaw Herling's The Noonday Cemetery and Other Stories (New Directions, 2003), Jerzy Pilch's His Current Woman (Grove, 2002), and Stefan Zeromski's The Faithful River (Northwestern, 1999). In 2005, he won an ASTEEL translation prize for Tulli's Dreams and Stones.

Praise For Bacacay

Gombrowicz is one of the most original and gifted writers of the twentieth century: he belongs at the very summit, at the side of his kindred spirits, Kafka and Céline. This collection of his stories will serve as an admirable and fascinating introduction to his oeuvre. —Washington Post Books World

These are weird and wonderful and erudite as anything by Borges and Joyce…It¢s safe to think of Bacacay as Gombrowicz¢s Dubliners: a collection of complex and sophisticated short stories that contain within them all the seeds of the author¢s later artistic blooming. —The Believer

This version of Bacacay raises the bar for all Gombrowicz translations and makes an excellent introduction for readers new to his tragicomic world. —The Nation

As in Gombrowicz¢s airily bizarre novels…lucid, concise narratives are weighted with outrageous premises and absurd developments that recall the work of Kafka, Beckett, Bruno Schulz, and (especially) Ionesco… Johnston¢s brilliant translations vividly convey the radically unconventional content and style of one of the 20th century¢s strangest—and greatest—writers. —Kirkus Reviews

Grotesque, erotic, and often hilarious, the stories immediately established Gombrowicz's extraordinary voice...As creepy as Poe and as absurdist as Kafka. —The New Yorker

Gombrowicz’s extravagant, gleefully anarchic gifts explode on every page of his early collection Bacacay. And the wit and verve Bill Johnston brings to his daunting task produce a translatorly tour de force—the most riotously readable English Gombrowicz yet. —Clare Cavanagh

One of the great novelists of our century. —Milan Kundera