Toward heterotopia: The case of Trans-Atlantyk

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In August 1939, the Polish avant-garde writer and playwright Witold Gombrowicz left Poland for what was to be a month-long literary tour of South America. World War II broke out a week after Gombrowicz's arrival in Argentina, and he was never to return to Poland; instead he remained in Buenos Aires, where he would live for the next quarter of a century. In this essay George Gasyna argues that Gombrowicz overcame whatever nostalgic longings he may have felt for the homeland he had left behind-by an "accident" of world history-through articulating a new type of poetics, which Gasyna terms a "heterotopic imagination." Employing a key term used by Michel Foucault in his archaeologizing of western cultural knowledge, Gasyna theorizes heterotopia both as a desire to articulate the existential condition of deterritorialization in the spaces between mainstream literary and cultural discourses, and as a kind of textual sanctuary from the world. Within the zone of heterotopia, Gasyna argues, an author's exilic imagination may transform the nonplace of language into a linguistic refuge, a home-in-language. In his reading of Gombrowicz's second and perhaps most outrageous novel, Trans-Atlantyk, Gasyna demonstrates that despite its overt stylistic deviation and blatant political provocations, the novel is primarily concerned with elaborating an exilic space of hope for an autonomous subject-in this case the deracinated author who chose to divest himself of the political pressures of being a Polish émigré in wartime and the Cold War era, in order to become "merely a human being.".

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)898-923
Number of pages26
JournalSlavic Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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