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Witold Gombrowicz and Virgilio Piñera, the Argentine Experience


This dissertation is a comparative study of lives and works of two émigré writers : the Polish Witold Gombrowicz (1904-1969) and Cuban Virgilio Piñera (1912-1979). The two met in 1946 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where they developed a lifelong friendship grounded in intellectual compatibility and fueled by literary collaboration. My study focuses mainly on the body of work that the two authors produced during the twenty- three-year span of time between their initial meeting and the death of Gombrowicz. I argue that the writers shared a strong desire to renovate the world of literature in their home countries, including their host culture, Argentina. This desire in turn allowed them to develop in their writings a unique mode of cultural criticism which sought to build a bridge between the literary worlds of two geographically distant and, at least at first sight, culturally remote regions: Latin America and East-Central Europe. There are five chapters that comprise this dissertation. The introductory chapter conceptualizes the theoretical framework for analyzing Gombrowicz and Piñera's works in relation to their historical and biographical contexts. Chapter One focuses specifically on the year 1947 and the writers' collaboration on six critical texts which target the most prominent Argentine literary and intellectual figures of the time. The subsequent two chapters examine the novels La carne de René by Piñera and Trans-Atlantyk by Gombrowicz, both written in the early 1950s, when the exchange of ideas between the two writers was still at its peak. Finally, the fourth chapter presents the long censured theater plays Los siervos (by Piñera) and Operetta (by Gombrowicz). Regardless of tangible similarities in their storylines as well as conceptual underpinnings - especially, a shared concern with cultural and political nationalism, including the particular case of Peronism in Argentina - neither the two novels nor the theater pieces to my knowledge have yet been addressed in parallel. By engaging with Gombrowicz and Piñera scholarship in English, Spanish, Polish, French and German, I aim to join a body of research that recovers and contextualizes the voices that come from the margins of the Western literary history

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