Satirical pulp: The Possessed, by Witold Gombrowicz, reviewed

On 1 September 1939 Germany invaded Poland. It’s hardly an event which needs its significance re-stating, but there was one outcome which has received rather less attention than the impending crisis in Europe. After the first instalments – serialised in newspapers in the summer of that year – a bizarre, flamboyant, mock-gothic novel by an unknown writer, ‘Z. Niewieski’, was forced to cease publication on 3 September. Witold Gombrowicz, the author of The Possessed and master of Polish modernism, had penned the work under a pseudonym, and, he claimed, only for money. If that distance from the book weren’t enough, he then put an ocean between himself and the manuscript.

Journey to the end of the world: the full horror of the Belgica’s Antarctic expedition

The epic story of the Antarctic voyage of the Belgica (1897-9) has all the ingredients of a truly glorious misadventure: an aristocratic expedition commander who carries the pride of a small nation on his shoulders; an eccentric American surgeon who was to become known as one of the greatest frauds in the history of polar exploration; a cantankerous crew, racked by madness, scurvy and mutiny; a desperate sunless polar winter stuck in shifting sea ice that threatens to crush the ship; and finally an escape plan that involves half a ton of explosives and hand-sawing through a mile and a half of sea ice. It is an extraordinary tale of

The short, unhappy life of Ivor Gurney — wounded, gassed and driven insane

The poet and composer Ivor Gurney (1890-1937) is a classic but nevertheless shocking example of literary neglect. Although he brought out two respectfully received collections of war poetry during his lifetime, the idiosyncrasies of his style have prevented him from being widely recognised as the equal of his greatest contemporaries. His history of mental illness has further destabilised the reception of his work, not just by encouraging people to think of him as crazy, but by compounding practical difficulties surrounding its publication. In the 1980s Michael Hurd wrote a somewhat sketchy biography, and P.J. Kavanagh edited an expanded, but still partial, sample of his work. Only now has Kate Kennedy,