Ferdydurke
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Ferdydurke

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  4,169 ratings  ·  133 reviews
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...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published by Quaderns Crema (first published 1937)
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s.penkevich
Mar 15, 2012 s.penkevich rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The pupa
Shelves: favorites, polish
'There is nothing that the mature hate more, there is nothing that disgusts them more, than immaturity' writes Gombrowicz in this comic masterpiece of Polish literature. Be prepared to embrace your immaturity as Gombrowicz attacks so-called 'maturity' and exposes it as a fraud in this story about an aspiring author who is reduced to back to his childish teenage self before a former professor and brought back to school. This first novel of his was banned by the Nazi's and Communist parties for it...more
Mike Puma
Oct 11, 2011 Mike Puma rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: they'll know who they are

I remember a song from my youth—one we played on record players before households had stereos. A time when said record players still had a setting for 78 rpm, which is what we had to use to play this tune. One of those childhood memories which never really goes away. A song that was already old when we started listening to it.

We was out in California one time,
And we wandered lookin’ for a room, and this mad hotel,
And we got upstairs and opened the door and turned on the lights,
And there on th
...more
Greg
I didn't like this book. I didn't hate it either. If I could have given it two and a half stars I would have. I liked the premise. Parts of it were interesting, and I think I got what he was doing with the work, but it just never gelled for me. Maybe if I had read it straight through without taking a bit of a break with reading a history book I might have enjoyed it more, but by about page 200 the whole book felt like work. For example I was on the bus, and I had the choice between reading this...more
K.D. Absolutely
Jul 15, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books; 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
Witold Gombrowicz (1904-1969) is considered as one of the most important literary figures in Poland. Ferdydurke was his first novel and he published this in 1937 when he was 33 years old. Two years after its publication Russian invaded Poland and turned it into a communist country. Poland subsequently banned this book so Gombrowicz hid in Argentina and France.

Ferdydurke is a darkly satirical comedy that is considered modernist. The main protagonist and the narrator of the story, Joey Kawalski is...more
Sean
Mar 29, 2008 Sean rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Extremely patient, adventurous readers who are willing to be changed forever
Shelves: favorites
Another one of my all time favorites. Gombrowicz' modernist masterpiece, his first novel, came out in the 1930's, causing a brief literary sensation only weeks before his native Poland was invaded by the Nazis. The author fled to South America and since Europe had other things on its mind in the coming years both author and book were pretty much forgotten. Gombrowicz was rediscovered however amid the renewed experimentation of the 1960's, and enjoyed a renaissance in his lifetime, after decades...more
Nate D
Jan 12, 2013 Nate D rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pupas
Recommended to Nate D by: an old professor, shocked at this gap in my studies
Comments and reviews on this classic of interwar Polish absurdism seem to oscillate between adoration and ambivalence. This actually makes some kind of sense as my own reactions oscillated somewhat between those poles, even as I read it. Because for all of the rebellious wit and satiric insight on display throughout the novel, despite the excellence and memorable quotability of so many individual lines, there's also something very wordy and over-analyzed about this. Polish new wave filmmaker Jer...more
al
right in the snoot! bash him right in the pupa!
Jim
Hoo, boy! How does once approach a work that, the moment you touch it, dissolves into all manner of mugs, attitudes, and outright wackiness? This is my first work by Witold Gombrowicz, and I am mightily impressed by it -- but ... I ... must ... retain ... my ... perspective. Or like, Joe Kowalski, the narrator, I will be entrapped and dealt the pupa.

What is this pupa? It seems to be everywhere. As I understand it, it's the fulcrum of a boy's immaturity, centered in his butt, from which radiates...more
Andrew Walter
I can’t remember why I decided to read this book, but it has been on my “pending” list for about two years now. I questioned a Polish friend about it fairly extensively (luckily he didn’t get annoyed, which I probably would if someone started to pester me about Dickens simply because I’m British, which is essentially what I was doing…) and he said that I would probably enjoy it because I have a “sick brain”. I decided to take this as both a compliment and a recommendation rolled into one, and I’...more
Radoslaw
Crazy, brilliant, and frustrating novel from the 1930's by this mad Polish author. The basic theme/question/idea is: do we possess an identity outside of what people think of us or are we mostly shaped by society's perception of who we are? As all language and all interactions we have with others is little more than mediated societal convention, is there any room to express who we "really" are?

Anyway, the story involves a thirty-something author (Gombrowicz) who, up to now, has produced a single...more
Amy
Ferdydurke is a novel that often times just seems like sorta funny nonsense, and other times like a philosophical take on the importance of "immaturity" as fuel for creativity.

The premise of the story is that our protagonist is somehow regressed into a teenager (all though he still looks like a 30-year-old...everybody just seems to overlook that). In school his classmates debate over purity vs. vulgarity as the ultimate expression of immaturity. When he is forced to live with a family that inclu...more
Josh
Gombrowicz is a useful author more than anything else. This book, for example, gives you an idea - "immaturity" - and then shows you how it can be used to systematically dismantle every system of meaning you might come across. People complain about philosophical novels, but "philosophy" here doesn't mean argument, or logic - more like following an intuited form as it grows and surprises.
Ev
At first I was thrilled with the book. Being Polish, I guess I could see more of the context. And so, I was absolutely delighted by Gombrowicz's blatant opposition towards the Polish Tradition and Great Authors. I went as far as to underline some passages which completely refuted the Polish Greatness.

However, the further I got into the book, the more I was annoyed with the slapstick humor and sickness of the author's mind. Call me stiff but I just don't find a miscarried fetus funny (okay, maybe...more
Eoghan
If anything a novel about the ways in which we are infantilised by the society around us is more apposite now than it was in the thirties. We are subject on the one hand to a barrage of advertising that suggests the horizons of our aspirations should be the satisfaction of the most puerile and asinine desires, and on the other had we are continually warned about and forbidden to do things that no mentally competent individual would ever conceive of doing. This morning I passed a fully-grown woma...more
Caitlin
So far, a slightly schizophrenic and probably pretty autobiographical paranoid fantasy/philosophical and aesthetic rant. Really weird. Really good.
Greg
I've read this novel twice, and I enjoyed it even more the second time through. The basic plot is absurd - a 30 year old middle-class man is "kidnapped" and sent back to school; everyone treats him like a boy - but its themes are not: the story is a sustained meditation on "maturity," or in other words, on the attempt to escape "immaturity" into "maturity." We discover that the "child runs deep" even in the seemingly most "mature" adults. In any case, the novel is also frequently quite funny; we...more
Trina
Subversive & whimsical. There's a playful streak that runs throughout this story which sends someone backward from man to the "brat within" as if to upend our expectations of storytelling as much as his fictional world. Publishers Weekly called it "a novel that remains a singularly strange exploration of identity, cultural and political mores", but I think it's more of a pastiche of styles and types of narratives than a conventional novel. Written in 1937, banned by the Nazis, suppressed und...more
Robert
It's not the best Bildungsroman that i ever read but i have to say that it's the one that i find most appealing and daring. Ferdydurke changes the very way the concept of Bildung itself should be perceived. Gombrowicz not only criticizes the web of myths surrounding the concept of Bildung as an equivalent for education, progress, maturity, he thoroughly destroys and deconstructs them by dragging them through the labyrinthine hallways of absurdity. He exposes the horrid aftermath of human interac...more
Bondama
I was clued onto this book by Maciek, who is from Warsaw, Poland. We were "arguing" about "No Country For Old Men" when he quoted a small passage from "Ferdydurke."

This is an amazing, incredible book - I'd almost call it a fable. When it was initially published in 1937, "Ferdydurke" was banned by not only the Nazis, but the Soviets and, I'm quite sure, the Catholic Church with its infamous "Index." As Maciek mentioned, Witold Gombrowicz managed to flee Poland just by a whisker of being caught b...more
Don
In an introduction to the recent english translation of this 1938 Polish novel,Susan Sontag describes it as "extravagent, brilliant, disturbing, brave, funny...wonderful" I concur. In many ways it resembles fantasy quests such as William Morris' The Glittering Plain or David Lindsay's A Voyage to Acturus and it packs the same level of cognitive wallop. Although Gombrowicz was an atheist, he explores here how we define ourselves as people but without recognizing a human soul. Seems a bit of a str...more
Phil
The first book I read by Gombrowicz was Pornografia and, though I enjoyed it, Ferdydurke surpasses it by far! If I could give this book a higher rating than five stars I would. The seamless manipulation of perspectives and non sequitur of plot had me floored every time I came across them. His complete disregard for narrative conventions and his novel ways of tripping the reader all while not coming off as fluffed up by cliche modernist flourish found in far too many experimental/unconventional w...more
lyell bark
this book is funny and cool yall, starts off like a weird celine sort of fever dream where the narrator is seeing asses in the sky and then the fever dream turns real!!! omg. + lots of funny stuff like a making faces contest, a fight between analysis and synthesis and about 20 pages spent on athletic schoolgirls in their school girl outfits. good fetish, and in 1934 may have been ahead of its time, altho perhaps the polish schoolgirl of 1934 was not wearing the pleated gingham skirt of today's f...more
Andrew
This is another one of those books that strikes me as impossibility. Let's say there are "three I's" at the heart of la grand littérature Européenne... ideology, identity (dislocation thereof), and (trumping all) irony. While i don't think I found Ferydurke as comic as I suppose I was supposed to, I was still amused. Liking it certainly depends on your tolerance of a very specifically Continental style. And while I'm not the world's biggest fan of that, I like it well enough, and I liked Ferdydu...more
Julia Boechat Machado
Um escritor de trinta anos é seqüestrado por um antigo professor e levado de volta ao colégio. Considerado como um ataque niilista à cultura, um modernismo mais próximo do dadaísmo e dos Irmãos Marx do que de Eliot e Pound. Genial.
Willem
all time favorite, meer dan eens gelezen. reciteerde met vrienden fragmenten uit het hoofd.
Daniel
Grotesque, at times very funny, hints of Kafka and Nabokov.
Dwight
List of my posts on the book

Gombrowicz had published two stories that appear in Ferdydurke after the release of his first book: “The Child Runs Deep in Filidor” and “The Child Runs Deep in Filibert.” The first story is a philosophical parable on the conflict between synthesis and analysis. The second story looks at a tennis game that devolves into violence, absurdity, and insults. In both stories “the child runs deep” in several of the characters. Both chapters are fun reads and can stand alone,...more
William
This book has changed the way I see the world.

It's a philosophical thing, an existential thing. Not some sort of attitude change. The plot is completely unconvention. The writing is entirely written in symbols and templates--and that's exactly how I see the world now--in symbols and templates. It's like it makes the same claims as Freud (without the strange Penis Envy kind of things) but by completely by-passing psychoanalysis. It attempts (quite successfully if you ask me) the notions of patter...more
Lara
I wasn't certain what to expect when I started this book, which has been banned in many countries since it was published. What I found was a subversive tale in which everyone is subject to ridicule by the author's jaundiced eye, including himself and the reader. He begins in an autobiographical style, laying about and bemoaning the reception his previous book received. Next thing you know, he is passively following along a character from his childhood and trying to avert schoolyard fights. While...more
Jan-Maat
Good grief, I've got a copy of this somewhere that I must have liberated from a second-hand bookshop years ago.

An odd story. Not Mloda Polska (thanks to the correction in comments) but a product of the inter war period. A man is taken out of adult life and made to live as a child, he is forced to return to school and given foster parents to live with. Naturally he is still an adult even though everybody treats him as a child. There is an absurd classroom scene in which the star pupil demonstrate...more
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Witold Marian Gombrowicz (August 4, 1904 in Małoszyce, near Kielce, Congress Poland, Russian Empire – July 24, 1969 in Vence, near Nice, France) was a Polish novelist and dramatist. His works are characterized by deep psychological analysis, a certain sense of paradox and an absurd, anti-nationalist flavor. In 1937 he published his first novel, Ferdydurke, which presented many of his usual themes:...more
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“Man is profoundly dependent on the reflection of himself in another man's soul, be it even the soul of an idiot.” 62 likes
“Our element is unending immaturity.” 14 likes
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