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the Complete Review
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Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz

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To purchase Insatiability

Title: Insatiability
Author: Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz
Genre: Novel
Written: 1927 (Eng. 1977)
Length: 534 pages
Original in: Polish
Availability: Insatiability - US
Insatiability - UK
Insatiability - Canada
L'Inassouvissement - France
Unersättlichkeit - Deutschland
Insaciabilidad - España
  • Polish ttitle: Nienasycenie
  • Translated by Louis Iribarne

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Our Assessment:

B+ : a wild ride which will not be appreciated by all

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Nation B 6/5/1996 Adam Shatz
The New Republic B- 7/10/1996 Jaroslaw Anders
Publishers Weekly B- 15/4/1996 .

  Review Consensus:

  A "classic", but tough going.

  From the Reviews:
  • "The book's endless discursive passages collapse under their own weight without reaching any conclusion, or they decline into adolescent complaints." - Jaroslaw Anders, The New Republic

  • "Insatiability is a raucously Ivesian collage of voices barely mastered by their parodist." - Adam Shatz, The Nation

  • "For any but the staunchest readers it will prove tough slogging indeed." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Insatiability is one funky novel. The time between the wars was an interesting one in Central Europe, and a great deal of truly great literature, largely in the form of large tomes, appeared or was conceived then. Broch and Musil reigned in Austria (well, they did not reign, but they created the greatest works of the period), Döblin experimented in Germany (though it was the dull man Mann that pleased the public), and Poland had both Witkiewicz and Gombrowicz fashioning their fascinating work. Insatiability is, like Gombrowicz' Ferdydurke, Musil's Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (The Man without Qualities), and Broch's towering Die Schlafwandler (The Sleepwalkers), and, yes, Mann's big books, a philosophical novel of enormous dimensions and proportions.
       It is a fantastical novel, darkly utopian, in which Europe is under a fascistic regime while a Russian revolution dominates that country, and everyone is faced with a Chinese invasion. The leaders in a seemingly invincible Poland succumb to an unusual new drug-religion, Murti Bing, and in the end surrender to the Chinese.
       The hero of the novel is Genezip Kapen. His adventures are in the main sexual and philosophical. Witkiewicz uses him to expound his own theories -- serious and not so serious -- and he goes far afield in doing so. Peopled with a vast assortment of unusual characters, the novel is always ... interesting, and generally engaging.
       Witkiewicz does not seem to take himself or his ideas all too seriously, and so in some senses this book is a tonic compared to the general run of Bildungsroman from the time. He paints ... nay, splatters a broad canvas in this novel that could as easily be termed dystopian science fiction as a Bildungsroman. The philosophy is unusual but certainly interesting (if only for its bizarreness). Witkiewicz, a talented painter who gave up painting, also argues about the impotence of language, the inadequacy of fiction, rejecting his undertaking while creating such a huge work.
       It is thoroughly entertaining, but it is an unusual novel, from a different time and context (though the commentary on Communism, for example, is strikingly modern). A true intellectual, Witkiewicz' thoughts on the many hundreds of subjects he raises are interesting and interestingly expressed. It is a bit of a mess, and certainly will not be to everyone's taste, but we do recommend it. It is an important novel, and a fun one. Worth the considerable effort required.

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Insatiability: Reviews: Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz: Other Books by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz under review: Other Books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Polish author Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (1885-1939) is best known as a dramatist. With Gombrowicz and Bruno Schulz he was a leading figure of Polish intellectual life between the World Wars. He committed suicide in September, 1939, after the Nazi invasion of Poland.

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