Matt's Reviews > Ferdydurke

Ferdydurke by Witold Gombrowicz
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M 50x66
's review
Jun 28, 2010

liked it

Another in a long line of semi-famous modernist/ avant-garde books, this one is hard to track down, at least for me, because I had trouble remembering the title, and the author's name-- forget about it!

But once I did figure out how to search for it, my library had a copy, and I dragged it with me on the plane to read. I don't think it's as good as work by his peer and contemporary Bruno Schulz, but it's got it's moments.

The set up is that narrator and semi-distant author stand in Joey gets sent back to school to be retaught the social norms that as an enfant terrible writer he hasn't observed. The rest of the book, then, works at a sort of workmanlike pace to unravel those taboos, one pair per chapter. So we have the conflict between lads and boys, essentially innocence v. knowledge, some stuff about respecting women's sacred nature, etc. To me, it was actually pretty vitiated and felt a little warmed over, till about the last two chapters.

This is the point at which Joey and his school friend "break out" of the frame and confront the disconnect between rural culture and the romanticization of the same, through the friend's love of "farmhands." I'm not sure why this is, but this felt like a totally different book, especially in the second-to-last chapter of the book-- the writing is better and more over-the-top, the situations are more emotionally engaged for Joey since these are members of his (extended) family, and the stakes feel clearer-- it's like we've moved from Oz back to KS, and it makes for a much better section of the book-- easily the best in the book.

I might be unknowingly repeating received wisdom on this, but those last two chapters are great and the rest is kind of dull. If this book deserves its reputation, it's on the basis of those two chapters.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Ishan (new) - added it

Ishan I think your observation that the last two chapters are "better and more over-the-top" are seemingly in accordance with how the author came to view the work himself. He wrote, "when I started Ferdydurke, I wanted to write no more than a biting satire that would put me in a superior position over my enemies. But my words were soon whirled away in a violent dance, they took the bit between their teeth and galloped towards a grotesque lunacy with such speed that I had to rewrite the first part of the book in order to give it the same grotesque intensity." So there you go!


Matt Thanks. In general I ignore whatever writers try to tell me about their books, but it's good to find one who thinks the same general things I did:)


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