In this bitterly funny novel by the renowned Polish author Witold Gombrowicz. a writer finds himself tossed into a chaotic world of schoolboys by a diabolical professor who wishes to reduce him to childishness. Originally published in Poland in 1937. Ferdydurke became an instant literary sensation and catapulted the young author to fame. Deemed scandalous and subversive by Nazis. Stalinists. and the Polish Communist regime in turn. the novel (as well as all of Gombrowicz’s other works) was officially banned in Poland for decades. It has nonetheless remained one of the most influential works of twentieth-century European literature.
What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said?? It is funny, smart, and entertaining. It is different. It is all satire, so you need to keep that in mind. I can picture someone reading this and taking the whole thing very seriously and wondering what’s wrong with everyone who has enjoyed the book.
Whenever I read a translated book I love reading any forward or notes by the translator. It gives me a sense of what the translator was trying to do, from where they were pulling resources, words, etc. It helps me understand why certain words were kept in their original language, why the translator decided to use one word over another.
I haven’t read the original Polish version of this (because unfortunately I do not understand Polish), but it seemed like a great translation. There were never any points when I was like “I’m confused, what is this passage supposed to really be saying?”. And in a translation I think that is key.
If you want something that reads like a classic but isn’t meant to be taken seriously, I definitely recommend Ferdydurke. It kept me excited for breaks at work because I wanted to read more.
Author: Witold Gombrowicz, translated from Polish by Danuta Borchardt
Date of Publication: 1937 originally, this translation is from 2000
Source: BEA 2014