On avenida Costanera, staring at the waves dashed into the air with relentless fury by the stone masonry of the shore, I, today’s Gombrowicz, summoned that distant protoplast of mine in all of his tremulous and youthful vulnerability. Today, the triviality of those events took on (for me who already knew, who was now my own past, the solution to the riddle of that boy) the sanctity of legends about distant beginnings and today I knew the seriousness of that ridiculous suffering. I knew it ex post.
I reminded myself, therefore, how one evening he-I went to the neighbouring village of Bartodzieje to attend a party, where there was a person who transported him-me into raptures and before whom I – he – wanted to show off, shine. I – he – needed this. Instead I walked into the salon and there, instead of admiration, I was greeted by the pity of aunts, the jokes of cousins, the crass irony of all those local landowners. What had happened? Kaden Bandrowski had “run down” one of my novellas in words that were actually full of indulgence but which categorically denied me any talent. That newspaper had fallen into their hands and they, of course, believed it because, after all, he was a writer and he knew what he was talking about. That evening I did not know where to hide my face.
If he – I – was helpless in situations like this, then it was not at all because he was not up to them. On the contrary. These situations were irrefutable because they were unworthy of being refuted – they were too silly and frivolous to take the suffering that they caused seriously. You suffered and, at the same time, were ashamed of your suffering so that you, who at that time could easily handle far more menacing demons, broke down at this juncture, disqualified by your own pain.
You poor, poor boy! Why hadn’t I been at your side then, why couldn’t I have walked into that drawing room and stood right behind you, so that you could have been fortified with the later sense of your life.
But I –your fulfilment – I was – I am – a thousand miles and many years away from you and I sat – I sit –here, on the American shore, so bitterly overdue… and thus, staring at the water that shoots up from behind a stone wall, filled with the distance of the wind speeding from the polar region.
Gombrowicz, Diary (1954)
translated by Lillian Vallee