Based on theatricality, humour and camp aesthetics, the novel Lubiewo (2005) by the Polish writer Michał Witkowski recounts the tragicomic lives and adventures of Polish queers under Communism. One of the main features of the novel is the meaning-bearing nicknames of the characters, which result from the camp practice of “queer renaming”. This relies on transforming or substituting male proper names with ironic and witty female nicknames. The paper analyses the German, French, English and Czech translations of the novel to explain the strategies used to render such “talking nouns” in new linguistic-cultural contexts.
This article examines the relationship of disgust and perversion in Lovetown (Lubiewo bez cenzury) by Michał Witkowski. An overview of the reception of the book reveals that reviewers and critics have focused mainly on Witkowski’s portrayal of the LGBT community, the structure of the novel (dubbed the ‘queer Decameron’), and the textual (meta) creation of the writer’s voice, but it ignored his handling of disgust and perversion. Central to this reading of Lovetown, which draws on Sigmund Freud’s analyses of disgust and perversion, is the observation that the narrator interlards his lingo with neutral, ‘objective’ explanations of the main characters’ deviant behaviours. This glossary, written for the general reader, tends, in effect, to legitimize deviance. An in-depth analysis of the writer’s handling of the categories of the disgusting, the perverse and the sacred leads to the conclusion that Lovetown exemplifies a cathartic-therapeutic narrative in which disgust becomes a tool of self-fulfi llment.
This article, focused principally on the exploration of contingency, the body and disgust in Michał Witkowski’s novel Margot, is also a polemic and a vindication of the book against the barrage of criticism it received from its reviewers. Most of them decided that Margot was a novel about nothing, a haphazard mix of sundry discourses devoid of any linear structure. In fact, several critics blamed the author of giving away both the narrative structure and the plot to capricious contingency. The article takes a fi rm stance against such charges and argues that contingency does not need to be seen as a fault at all. It lies at the heart of the novel and determines the actions of characters, but it plays as important a role in people’s lives outside fi ction. Analysing the ups and down of the main characters (Margot and Wadek Mandarynka), the article explains the function of emotions, the body, the characters’ language and their ideas of sacrum in the legitimization of contingency. A special role in this mechanism is played by disgust. Reactions of disgust are always contingent, or, as Julia Kristeva puts it the abject has the power to terrorize the subject to such extent that he can do nothing but to succumb to contingency. In working out the idea of the contingency of selfhood, the article also draws on Richard Rorty’s approach, and in particular his concept of ironism. The latter is used to classify the main character of Witkowski’s book as a consummate ironist, i.e. a person who tests different languages in which the world can be described in order to pursue his carnal desires. Finally, the article argues that in his novel Witkowski not only brings to light the fortuitous character of the postmodern identity but also creates a heterogeneous language to express it.