POSSESSED - The Secret of Myslotch - A Gothic Novel
Witold Gombrowicz Published by: Marion Boyars Publ., 1998 Strony / Pages: 221, soft cover ISBN: 0-7145-2738-6
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Gombrowiczs second novel was quite a departure from his first, Ferdydurke, but it retains some similar imagery and themes, such as old world Poland versus the new (in the context of the interwar years and an independent Polish state) and immaturity in the male psyche. It was perhaps fortuitous or extremely clever to release it under a pseudonym, in order to avoid inevitable and unfair comparisons.

Possesseds subtitle gives away more of the story; a gothic novel that plays with the "Wlad the Impaler/Dracula" kinds of historical myth from central Europe, with props such as dark, semi-abandoned castles and eccentric if not deranged aristocrats. Its a genre with which Gombrowicz easily engages, and the results are both chilling and amusing.

Possessed is ideal material for a Polanksi film - as a fellow Pole with anti-establishment tendencies I believe he would understand the humour and his comic and surrealistic vision would be a perfect fit for the material.

Review by Eva:

At 7pm last night I picked up Witold Gombrowicz's 'Possessed - The Secret of Myslotch', and I was barely able to put it down until I finished it at 4am, nine hours later (I then spent a further half hour re-reading the beginning and wishing there were more prefaces, translator's notes etc). It's a brilliant gothic novel, from a writer who really knows how to create tension, my heart was jumping beats at the end almost every paragraph.

After finishing the novel I discovered that it had originally been published in serial form in 1938, in a Warsaw evening paper, and this explains the cliff-hangers at the end of every chapter that make it fresh and compelling. I can't give too much away but the story starts when a young tennis coach arrives in a Polish country house to play with a determined young woman. Eerily all the characters note a striking similarity in their temperaments and mannerisms. The influence they have on each other drives them to extremes, that often result in semi-evil deeds. They are also both attracted and repulsed by a nearby haunted castle, Myslotch, wherein lives a mad prince. What goes on in the Old Kitchen? Gombrowicz's style is suburb and he uses the now traditional gothic elements masterly, also creating erotic tensions which remind of Bataille, though without ever being sexually explicit.
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