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Witold Gombrowicz archive

Call Number: GEN MSS 515
Scope and Contents

The Witold Gombrowicz Archive documents Gombrowicz's life and literary output chiefly during the last two decades of his life (1949-69), as well as the reception of his works after his death. Due to his unexpected exile from Poland following the onset of World War II, and the difficulties he faced during his first few years in Argentina, the collection contains relatively little material from the time of his birth in 1904 through 1949.

The archive consists of Witold Gombrowicz's personal papers, material that was in his possession at the time of his death, and material later added by his wife Rita Gombrowicz. Gombrowicz's personal papers include correspondence, manuscripts of his writings, writings of others, newspaper clippings (some of which Gombrowicz annotated), photo albums, and personal papers. Rita Gombrowicz supplemented these materials with copies of Gombrowicz's outgoing correspondence, other documentation of his life, including his family background, and some literary manuscripts and related material. Other materials principally contributed by Rita Gombrowicz include theater programs relating to productions of Gombrowicz's works and to the Polish theater more generally, posters, audio recordings and video tapes, typescripts of adaptations of Gombrowicz's works by others, photographs documenting productions of his works, writings by others about Gombrowicz, additional clippings files, commemorative material, and Gombrowicz-related printed ephemera. The archive also includes Rita Gombrowicz's papers relating to her research on her husband and to her management of his literary affairs following his death.

Much of the archive is in Polish. To aid researchers, the spelling of Polish words and proper names has been simplified and diacritic symbols have been omitted. In the latter case, the Polish characters "l with stroke" or "a with ogonek" are treated respectively as "l" and "a" in the alphabetical listing. A noteworthy feature of the archive is, however, the extraordinary range of languages represented in the material, reflecting the breadth of Gombrowicz's influence. In addition to Polish, the languages most heavily represented are French, Spanish, German, and English. The archive includes material written in Bosnian, Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Lithuanian, Portuguese, Rumanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Swedish, Turkish, and Yiddish.

The archive is housed in 137 boxes and organized into twelve series: Correspondence, Writings of Gombrowicz, Adaptations by Others of Gombrowicz's Works, Theatre Programs, Writings by Others About Gombrowicz, Commemorative Works and Activities, Audiovisual Materials, Photographs, Personal Papers, Rita Gombrowicz Papers, Clippings, and Posters.

Series I, Correspondence , encompasses personal (including family) and literary and business correspondence, as well as fan mail, arranged in a single alphabetical run by name of correspondent. Incoming and outgoing correspondence is interfiled.

A significant portion of the correspondence includes originals of incoming letters and carbons of outgoing letters. The correspondence also includes photocopies and transcripts, added by Rita Gombrowicz, of original letters held in private hands or in public institutions (chiefly the Muzeum Literatury im. Adama Mickiewicza w Warszawie). Rita Gombrowicz's processing notes, which contextualize the contents of folders, have also been retained. Other notes, for example those which refer to more than one correspondent, and background material, such as brochures and photocopied fragments of books of a more general nature, have been moved to Series X, Rita Gombrowicz Papers, Research Files. Many of the correspondence folders include translations of letters, some of which were made during Gombrowicz's lifetime and for his use (chiefly translations from English and German). Others are the result of Rita Gombrowicz's research (chiefly translations from Polish and Spanish).

Gombrowicz's personal correspondents include several members of his family. Of particular note is the correspondence of his brother Janusz Gombrowicz, which dates from 1948-67 and is continued, after Janusz's death, by his stepdaughter Stanislawa Cichowska. Other relatives among Gombrowicz's correspondents include Janusz Gombrowicz's wife Franciszka Gombrowicz, his sister Irena Gombrowicz, his brother Jerzy Gombrowicz, his nephew Józef Gombrowicz, his niece Teresa Gombrowicz, and his cousins Gustaw Kotkowski and Teresa Soltan. Correspondence between the writer and his siblings, Irena Gombrowicz and Jerzy Gombrowicz, can also be found on microfilm in Series IX, Personal Papers.

Many of Gombrowicz's friendships were of a personal and literary character. Perhaps the best example of this was his friendship with Constantin Jelenski. Their collaboration is documented by correspondence spanning the years 1956-69. These files then continue with correspondence between Jelenski and Rita Gombrowicz. This correspondence, most of which has been published, shows the important role Jelenski played in promoting Gombrowicz's literary career.

Other significant correspondents from Polish literary and cultural circles are the writers Tadeusz Breza, Zofia Chadzynska, Alexandra Orme (Litka de Barcza), Józef Czapski, Maria Dabrowska, Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz, Maria Szczepanska Kuncewiczowa, Czeslaw Milosz, Stanislaw Mrozek, Leopold Tyrmand, Kaimierz Wierzynski, Józef Wittlin, and Pawel Zdziechowski. Also represented are the painters Alicja Giangrande and Zygmunt Grocholski, the literary critic Artur Sandauer, the composer Zygmunt Mycielski, theater director Tadeusz Kantor, and the editor Jerzy Giedroyc.

Several of Gombrowicz's Polish emigré friends also are represented, including Maria Swieczewska and Karol Swieczewski. The Swieczewskis' correspondence (mostly photocopies) addresses a wide variety of topics, ranging from financial affairs to literary and personal concerns. Other Polish emigrés included in the series are Halina and Krzysztof Grodzicki, Rena Dzianott, and Ada Lubomirska. An extensive file of correspondence with Maria Paczowska and Bohdan Paczowski includes an interesting letter dictated by Gombrowicz to Rita and written in phonetic Polish. The bulk of this correspondence is written in Polish, with occasional letters in French.

Extensive files also exist for Witold Gombrowicz's Argentinian friends, Mariano Betelú, Juan Carlos Gomez, Jorge di Paola, and Miguel Grinberg. Files for Alejandro Rússovich, Sergio Rússovich, Beduino, Juan Carlos Ferreyra, and Enrique Wendt contain somewhat less correspondence. Witold Gombrowicz's wider contacts with Latin American literary and cultural circles are documented by correspondence with Virgilio Piñera, Roger Plá, Ernesto Sabato, Humberto Rodriguez Tomeu, Sergio Pitol, and Manuel Puig. All of the Latin American correspondence is in Spanish.

In addition to Gombrowicz's Polish and Latin American correspondents, the archive contains correspondence with many other outstanding personalities of the literary and art world of the mid-20th century. This group of letters, written chiefly in French, includes correspondence with Ingmar Bergman, François Bondy, Martin Buber, Albert Camus, Jean Dubuffet, Jean-Claude Hémery, Ernst Kreuder, Jorge Lavelli, and Alf Sjöberg. The series also contains a draft of a letter written by Gombrowicz to the French president Charles de Gaulles, and the replies on behalf of the president.

Gombrowicz's correspondence with editors, and his relationships with publishing houses, is also well represented. As a result, these files provide a rich source for the study of Gombrowicz's literary career and publication history. Extensive correspondence files exist between Gombrowicz and Jerzy Giedroyc, the Polish editor of Gombrowicz's works and publisher of the Paris-based Polish monthly Kultura. Most of the letters in these files are originals; problems with precise dating of the letters (no year date on the items) resulted in their being grouped by decade (1950s, 1960s), based on the letterhead or other annotations.

The bulk of the correspondence regarding French editions, including matters related to translations, can be found in the following files: Gallimard, Belfond, Denoël, Julliard, Lettres Nouvelles, Koukou Chanska, Geneviève Serreau, Maurice Nadeau, and Dominique de Roux. The rather complex history surrounding the publication of Witold Gombrowicz's works in French is explained in notes by Rita Gombrowicz (Series X, Rita Gombrowicz Papers, Research Files) and in her book Gombrowicz in Europe.

For Gombrowicz's German publishers, extensive documentation exists for Neske, S. Fischer Verlag, and R. Piper & Co. There are also files for Rowohlt, C. Bertelsmann Verlag, and Insel Verlag. Correspondence with Gombrowicz's German translator Walter Tiel is filed under Rudolf Richter (Tiel's real name).

English language editors are represented by several American publishers, including Grove Press, Harcourt Brace, Atlantic Monthly Press, Alfred Knopf, Viking Press, Harper and Row, Fawcett Publications Inc., Simon and Schuster, and Funk & Wagnalls Company. British publishers represented include Calder and Boyars Ltd. and Macgibbon & Kee.

Considerable files also exist for publishers in Argentina, Spain, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Mexico, and Scandinavia, and for a few institutions, Radio Free Europe, the Ford Foundation, and Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst.

Gombrowicz's published correspondence (magazine publications and limited book editions) forms a subseries of Series V, Writings by Others About Gombrowicz. Photocopies of letters to Gombrowicz are included in the subseries Cahier de L'Herne: Gombrowicz.

Series II, Writings , is organized into five subseries: Novels, Plays, Shorter Works, Biographical Writings, and Other Writings. There are notes, holograph and typescript drafts, printed versions, translations by others of works by Gombrowicz, and publicity material. It should be noted that some of Gombrowicz's posthumously published writings (notes and drafts for the special issue of Cahier) are to be found in Series V, Writings by Others About Gombrowicz.

The first subseries, Novels, is arranged alphabetically by title. The subseries includes the manuscript of Gombrowicz's last novel, Kosmos, in several redactions, and a complete French translation of Trans-Atlantyk by Koukou Chanska and François Marié. Material pertaining to Gombrowicz's three other novels (Ferdydurke, Opetani, and Pornografia) is considerably less extensive, consisting of drafts of prefaces and publicity material for various editions.

Plays, also arranged by title, includes drafts of Historia (the first version of Operetka, published posthumously in 1975) and four versions of Operetka, written between 1958-66. In these drafts, and others, one can observe Gombrowicz's writing method, as described in Dziennik 1953-56 (Instytut Literacki, 1957), characterized by his picking up thoughts and phrases and rewriting rather than correcting earlier drafts.

Shorter Works includes drafts and printed versions of Gombrowicz's short stories, articles, interviews, open letters to editors, and other submissions. Also included are translations by others of some of his shorter works. Much of the material consists of originals, but it is also supplemented by photocopies. The subseries includes works by Gombrowicz written under the pen names Jorge Alejandro, Andrzej Frycz, and Komentator. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by title.

Autobiographical Writings contains manuscripts, some complete and some incomplete, of all of Gombrowicz's major autobiographical pieces. The subseries includes: two typescript fragments of Dziennik 1953-56; various holograph redactions of fragments of Dziennik 1962-67; various redactions, in holograph and typescript, of fragments of Dziennik 1967-69; a holograph manuscript of Entretiens avec Gombrowicz; and a typescript manuscript of Wspomnienia polskie/Wedrówki po Argentynie.

The subseries Other Writings is divided into Notes on Philosophy (including Gombrowicz's notes and drafts), Guide de la philosophie en six heures un quart (containing notes taken by Rita Gombrowicz during the philosophy course conducted by the writer and published posthumously), and Miscellaneous, which contains Gombrowicz's more ephemeral writings, often not intended for publication, as well as publicity material.

Series III, Adaptations by Others of Works by Gombrowicz , contains theater scenarios, film treatments, and additional material related to adaptations of works by Gombrowicz. The series is organized by title of adapted work and further subdivided by the language of the adaptation.

Series IV, Theater Programs , is organized by the title of a play or adapted work and further arranged by the language of the text. There is an additional section for festivals. Some of the folders include leaflets and newspaper clippings found with the programs. Oversize clippings have been moved to Series XI, Clippings. Photographs found with the programs have been moved to Series VIII, Photographs.

Series V, Writings of Others About Gombrowicz is organized into seven subseries: Cahier de L'Herne: Gombrowicz, Published Letters, Bibliography, Articles, Biographical Articles and Notes, Transcripts of Radio Broadcasts, Theses and Student Essays. The series consists of works written by others during Gombrowicz's lifetime and after his death. Files on other works to which third parties made significant contributions, as co-author (Entretiens avec Dominique de Roux) or editor (Historia and Guide de la philosophie en six heures un quart), are to be found in Series II, Writings.

Writings of Others About Gombrowicz includes the special issue of Cahier de L'Herne: Gombrowicz. Gombrowicz was involved in the preparation of this issue, but it was edited by Constantin Jelenski and Dominique de Roux and published only after Gombrowicz's death. The subseries includes outlines of the contents of the issue, Gombrowicz's notes and drafts, articles sent by various contributors, and working files containing photocopies of correspondence, often duplicating letters in Series I, Correspondence.

Published Letters contains publications of Gombrowicz's correspondence with Adam Mauersberg, Irena and Bogdan Osadczuk, Artur Sandauer, Bruno Schulz, and Józef Wittlin. Letters were published in literary magazines, newspapers, and limited editions.

Bibliography is organized into general bibliography, bibliography by country of publication, and bibliography of translations. It includes original material as well as photocopies of fragments of books and library catalogs.

Articles contains both original and photocopied material. Photocopies predominate, but the subseries also includes manuscripts and typescripts of articles by Constantin Jelenski, a printed version of an article by Peter Kliemann annotated by Gombrowicz, and computer printouts of articles by Alejandro Rússovich.

Biographical Articles and Notes contains chiefly photocopies of printed material.

Transcripts of Radio Broadcasts contains mainly broadcasts of German language radio stations. Also included are broadcasts of Radio Free Europe. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by company name.

Theses and Student Papers is comprised chiefly of masters (maîtrise) theses. Additional student essays, chiefly in French, are included.

Series VI, Commemorative Works and Activities , documents the efforts undertaken to commemorate Witold Gombrowicz, both at the time of his death and in later years. The bulk of the material dates from 1969-70, the period shortly following the writer's death, and from 1989 into the early 1990s, at the time of the 20th anniversary of his death. The series is organized into five subseries: Obituaries and Tributes; Association des Amis de Witold Gombrowicz; Vingt Ans Après; "Witold Gombrowicz", Centre George Pompidou, Paris; and Other Events.

Obituaries and Tributes contains newspaper clippings, transcripts of radio broadcasts, and press releases issued during the first months after Gombrowicz's death. Letters of condolence and records of a more private character are to be found in Series X, Rita Gombrowicz Papers. The material in the rest of the series is diverse and often interrelated. It includes correspondence, organizational records of the Association des Amis de Witold Gombrowicz, articles sent in reply to a call for submissions for the commemorative publication Vingt ans après, and documentation related to "Witold Gombrowicz," an exhibition organized at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 1991, as well as other events, including the presentation of the Pompidou exhibition in Vence and Berlin.

Series VII, Audiovisual materials , includes both Audio Recordings and Moving Image Media. Audio Recordings encompasses the recordings of programs about Gombrowicz and the adaptations of his works for radio. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by the name of agency or person chiefly responsible for the recording. The tapes have been reformatted on digital discs (CDs) for reference use. The originals are stored in Restricted Fragile. The Moving Image Media include amateur films by Mariano Betelú, documentaries about Gombrowicz, and the theater and film productions of his works. The original films have been reformatted to DVD discs for reference use. Originals are stored in Restricted Fragile.

Series VIII, Photographs , is organized into three subseries: Personal Photographs, Photographs of Theater and Film Productions, and Exhibitions. Personal Photographs contain three photograph albums covering Gombrowicz's years in Poland (1904-39), Argentina (1939-63) and Europe (i.e. Germany and France) (1963-69). Photographs of Theater and Film Productions is arranged by the title of the play or adapted work. The name(s) in brackets is the person chiefly responsible for the production (usually a director), and is included in the folder description as a means to identify the production. Exhibitions contains photographs of the Exhibition "Witold Gombrowicz" at the Centre George Pompidou in Paris and the Akademie der Künste in Berlin.

Series IX, Personal Papers , is organized into Witold Gombrowicz Personal Papers, Gombrowicz Family Papers, and Writings of Family Members.

Witold Gombrowicz Personal Papers span the period 1922-69, though early materials are few and consist chiefly of photocopies. The papers include Gombrowicz's birth and baptism certificates, school certificate, university diploma, and two passports. Original papers include a "certificate of morality and good conduct," Gombrowicz's notes on his health and on financial matters, biographical and genealogical writings, and lists of names and addresses of friends, relatives, and representatives from publishing houses.

Gombrowicz Family Papers contains microfilm of 17-20th century documents relating to the history of the Gombrowicz family in the Szymkowicz-Gombrowicz family archive in the Biblioteka Narodowa in Poland, and microfilm of manuscript materials pertaining to Witold Gombrowicz, including correspondence with siblings Jerzy and Irena Gombrowicz, early writings, and personal and family papers dating from 1892-1933, in the Osrodek Informacji Naukowej (Polska Akademia Nauk).

Writings of Family Members contains writings by Jerzy Gombrowicz, Antonia Gombrowicz, and Andrzej Scibor-Kotkowski about family history, genealogical notes, and family trees.

Series X, Rita Gombrowicz Papers , consists of materials related directly to Rita Gombrowicz in the period after Gombrowicz's death. The series is organized into five subseries: Correspondence, Research Files, Writings of Rita Gombrowicz, Newspaper Clippings, and Printed Ephemera.

Correspondence is organized into Letters of Condolence and General Correspondence. Letters of Condolence includes letters, telegrams, postcards, visiting cards, and a book of names and addresses of persons present at the funeral ceremony. General Correspondence contains Rita Gombrowicz's correspondence from the period after her husband's death and addresses matters related to Witold Gombrowicz's life and literary career. Earlier letters signed by Rita Gombrowicz or addressed to her, as well as (in a few cases) letters closing matters started by her husband, are to be found in Series I, Correspondence.

Research Files is organized into two subseries, Persons and Institutions, and Theater. These files contain material collected by Rita Gombrowicz in connection to her research on Gombrowicz's life and writings, and include her manuscript notes, fragments of books, and other publications (chiefly photocopies) related to Gombrowicz's correspondents.

Writings of Rita Gombrowicz consists of notes related to her research on Gombrowicz, reviews of her works, and publicity material. The subseries does not, however, include any manuscripts of her two major publications, Gombrowicz in Argentina and Gombrowicz in Europe. It should also be noted that evidence of Rita Gombrowicz's research is visible throughout the collection in the form of notes and translations accompanying original documents in the files.

Newspaper Clippings contains the clippings, chiefly interviews and reviews, related to Rita Gombrowicz.

Printed Ephemera contains brochures, periodicals, and other printed material related to Polish literature and the places, such as Royaumont, Vence, Radom and other Polish cities, associated with Witold Gombrowicz.

Series XI, Clippings , is organized into two subseries, Whole Issues Containing Articles Pertaining to Gombrowicz and Newspaper Clippings. Whole Issues Containing Articles Pertaining to Gombrowicz includes magazines, book catalogues, and printed ephemera. In contrast to the printed material in Series X, Rita Gombrowicz Papers, all the items here contain articles by Gombrowicz or are directly related to him and his work. Many articles focus on theater productions of his works, and there is a significant number of publications about the Polish theater. This subseries is arranged by the language of publication.

Newspaper Clippings contain newspaper and clipped magazine articles about Gombrowicz and, in some cases, translations and extracts of the articles. It includes articles annotated by Gombrowicz (especially among German language clippings). The articles are diverse, ranging from short anouncements and texts in which Gombrowicz is mentioned only by way of some other topic, to literary analyses, reviews of his works, as well as film and theatre productions, and interviews. The subseries is arranged by the language of the texts, then chronologically within language groups. Languages represented are: Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Rumanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish, and Yiddish.

Additional clippings are found in Series XIII, Additions Since 2005.

Series XII, Posters , is organized into subseries for Festivals, Exhibitions, Plays, Theater Adaptations, Movie Posters, and Publications. The series contains noteworthy examples of late 20th century Polish poster art, including work by Franciszek Starowieyski, Andrzej Krynicki, Jan Lenica, Waldemar Swierzy, Wiktor Sadowski, and Wieslaw Walkuski.

Series XIII, Additions Since 2006 , is organized into three subseries, Clippings, Archiwum Gazety Wyborczej Material, and Books. The series consists chiefly of clippings relating to Gombrowicz from Polish newspapers, journals, and magazines dating from 2001-2005. All clippings are in Polish, and clippings are also stored in Oversize. The Archiwum Gazety Wyborczej Material consists of computer printouts of searches on the term "Gombrowicz" and the full text of articles from Polish periodicals in which the name appears. All articles appear to date from 1994-1995, though the search and printouts appear to have been executed in 2001.

Oversize material includes items from all series with the exception of Series XI, Clippings. Restricted Fragile and Restricted Fragile Oversize contain fragile originals for which preservation photocopies or preservation use copies have been substituted in the main files.

Language of Materials

Chiefly in Polish; some materials in French, Spanish, German, and English.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Boxes 115-136 and items in cold storage: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The Witold Gombrowicz Archive is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquired from Rita Gombrowicz by purchase through Sotheby's France in 1998 and by gift in 2006.

1902 - 1998
144.88 Linear Feet ((149 boxes) + 97 broadside folders, cold storage)
Related Names
Gombrowicz, Witold, 1904-1969
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Spanish; Castilian
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