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Possessed, or, The secret of Myslotch by…
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Possessed, or, The secret of Myslotch

by Witold Gombrowicz

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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195460,388 (3.78)3

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This book didn’t completely work for me. It started out as big house/social class mix/romance/comedy and switched to a Gothic novel. Initially, both separate sections worked but they didn’t mesh well together. The characters were generally unlikeable, but this fit with the antagonist class-crossing romance and the schemers and plotters in the Gothic section. However, as the plots of both parts proceeded, the novel started to feel more disjointed. For example, there’s a long section in Warsaw that has Maya and Walchak facing career disappointments, living difficulties and more twists to their romance, but it has little to do with the Gothic plot. The in-depth past story and twisted family history making up the Gothic backstory are involving but don’t work with the more modern elements. The end is an extended melodrama filled with murder, madness, supernatural events, (more) doppelgangers and characters conveniently added for plot purposes.

The novel follows Walchak, a poor tennis instructor who has traveled from Warsaw to the countryside to train Maya, the spirited and somewhat amoral daughter of impoverished aristocrats. There is an immediate similarity and antagonism between Walchak and Maya – everyone comments on it. At first, the plot has a satiric feel, as the social climbing Walchak and moneygrabbing Maya spar and Maya’s guests display their own pretensions and blindspots. Maya’s mysterious attraction to Walchak threatens her relationship with her fiancé, Kholawitski – a relationship based on mutual selfish desires. Kholawitski is the personal secretary of the half-mad prince, who stays shut up in his crumbling castle. From there, the Gothic story spins out – the prince has an appropriately violent, secret family history, a professor visiting the family engages in a battle with Kholawitski over control of the prince and there is a frantic hunt for secrets to the past, which affect Maya and Walchak.

The writing is sharp, and although Maya and Walchak are unpleasant characters, their clashes – such as an extended tennis fight – are interesting. The Gothic tale has enough classic elements and twists to be fairly involving at first. However, the book falls apart as it goes on, with various aimless events in both sections. The melodramatic end is probably consistent with actual Gothic novels, but it felt rushed and contrived. ( )
1 vote DieFledermaus | Jan 18, 2017 |
vintage Gombrowicz ( )
  experimentalis | Jan 2, 2008 |
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Witold Gombrowiczprimary authorall editionscalculated
Beers, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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