Witold Gombrowicz

translated from the Polish by Eric Mosbacher
Marion Boyars 2005 [1937]
A book review by Danny Yee © 2011 https://dannyreviews.com/
The narrator of Ferdydurke is a struggling writer who is trapped by a reactionary professor, given the "bottom" of a schoolboy, and sent back to school. There, in a comedy of pedagogy, he is caught up in the conflict between the Boy and the Adolescent.

The family he lodges with has a daughter who is a perfect Modern Schoolgirl, with thighs to match, and with whom he engages in a struggle to maintain face. Meanwhile one of his fellow students is in search of an untainted stable-boy... And inserted into this is the story of a duel between a synthesist professor Philifor and his reductionist rival Anti-Philifor.

Ferdydurke is a story of bottoms and faces, symbolising private and public identities. It is a parody of literary styles, a mockery of pretence and hypocrisy, and a probing of the murkier aspects of the social and psychological construction of the self. It is also an all-around romp — it may be a Modernist classic, but it takes itself a lot less seriously than most of its peers.

Note: It is not mentioned anywhere, but this 1961 translation is apparently indirect, from the Polish via the French. I can't help but think more than is necessary will have been lost in that process, and am tempted to reread this in the more recent English translation by Danuta Borchardt.

August 2011

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%T Ferdydurke
%A Gombrowicz, Witold
%M Polish
%F Mosbacher, Eric
%I Marion Boyars
%D 2005 [1937]
%O paperback
%G ISBN 071453403X
%P 272pp