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Ferdydurke - Witold Gombrowicz, Danuta Borchardt

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 the middle of the bed sat this great big mouse eatin’ a onion and cryin’ like a baby.
—The Three Flames, 1947 here , or if you prefer the banned version.

So what has this got to do with Ferdydurke? Possibly nothing. Maybe everything. In the sense that Grombowicz’s classic is about everything—all the major themes—art, maturity/immaturity, class, privilege, rape, naivety vs. idealism, coming of age/reverting of age…really. And one can’t forget the pupa…make that: The pupa! The pupa! (read it, you’ll see) And, BTW, the pupa (one of its meanings) should never be considered cute by anyone, other than a parent or grandparent, certainly not a priest.

An absurdist adventure that won’t appeal to everyone, but will appeal to those with a zest for the peculiar, the bizarre, the political, and/or national literatures other than one’s own (in this case Poland). Deserves reading for being banned by both the Nazis and the Communists.

Among the many lines I liked:

Normality is a tightrope-walker above the abyss of abnormality.
Reminds me of Sontag’s “Sanity is a cozy lie.”

I have a GR buddy who’s an avid reader from Poland. I share him with many of you. He knows who he is. Some of you know who he is. Read this book, I think I’ve figured out what…uh…happened to him.