Writer, playwright and essayist.
Born into an old noble family with Lithuanian roots, his father was both a landowner and an industrialist. The family estate of Małoszyce was in south-eastern Poland some 60 kilometres from the regional capital of Kielce.
Before the War
In 1911 Gombrowicz was sent to live in Warsaw. In 1922 he completed his secondary education at the St Stanisław Kostka Secondary School and in 1927, after graduating in law, he travelled to Paris to study philosophy and economics. From 1934 Gombrowicz contributed to Polish literary periodicals as well as the daily press. His work appeared in Kurier Poranny (Morning Courier), Skamander (Scamander), and Czas (Time). His literary debut entitled Pamiętnik z okresu dojrzewania (Memoir from Adolescence) was published in 1933 and his acclaimed novel Ferdydurke was published in 1937. On 29 July 1939 he set out on the ocean liner MS Chrobry for South America. The outbreak of war found him in Buenos Aires, where he settled.
In 1941 Gombrowicz was advanced an allowance by the Polish embassy in Buenos Aires, as he was struggling to make ends meet. He initially sought to earn a living by writing for the Argentine press. Between 1947 and 1955 he worked for Banco Polacco as secretary to its management board. In later years, he was able to lecture and obtained financial assistance from Radio Free Europe and the Arthur Koestler Trust.
In April 1963 Gombrowicz received a Ford Foundation grant to stay in West Berlin for 12 months. In May 1964 he visited Paris, and was invited by the Royaumont Foundation to take up residence at the Abbaye Royaumont. Here he met Marie Rita Lacrosse, whom he married. In October 1964 they took up residence in Vence near Nice.
Gombrowicz was the recipient of many literary prizes: in 1962 the London-based Wiadomości prize for his Dziennik 1957–1961 (Diary 1957–1961); in 1966 the New York based Alfred Jurzykowski Foundation Prize; in 1967 the Prix International Formentor; in 1969 the Royal Swedish Academy Prize.
Gombrowicz’s association with the Literary Institute started in 1950. He became an iconic writer for the Institute, with all of his output subsequently published by Giedroyc. His first work to be published in Kultura was an excerpt from Trans-Atlantyk (in the May 1951 issue of the journal). Thanks to Konstanty Jeleński, Gombrowicz’s writing gained currency in Europe and was published in many languages. He received the Kultura Literary Prize as early as 1960.
Gombrowicz died on 25 July 1969 after a long illness that left him bed-bound and unable to write. He is buried in the cemetery in Vence.