"Ferdydurke" by Witold Gombrowicz has finally been properly translated into English. Not that this is an event worth mentioning in general, but the point to be made is that the world of translation offers room for all kinds of mischief and sloppiness. Who would have thought that it were perfectly acceptable for publishers to allow translation from a second, and not native tongue? Imagine, for purposes of illustration, that a work of a classic British author translated into German not directly, but from Suahili, for this was the language the book was first translated into. Would you be satisfied with a product of this type? This was the fate of Gombrowicz, his native tongue was done away with, and the Anglo-Saxon world of bibliophiles had had no other choice but to read a lemon. Perhaps this is the revenge of the Heavens on the author himself, for never was there any other Polish author who had his native country in such a low regard as he did. In his "Trans-Atlantyk", Gombrowicz dared to ridicule everything a Pole holds dear, together with the whole idea of a nation as such. Were he to live today, he would embrace the idea of convergence and the global village of consumptionism, as opposed to Europe of Nations. That was one of the main reasons for Gombrowicz's emigration to Argentina, where he spent almost all of his literary career.
"Ferdydurke" is an early novel by this author, and it's never as crass as the aforementioned "Trans-Atlantyk". In fact, it constitutes part of a literary canon in Poland to this very day, and there is no educated Pole who hasn't read or at least heard of "Ferdydurke". Scenes from this book, gestures, and neologisms entered the mass vocabulary, and once you learn some of these expressions, you cannot unlearn them, for then there is no better way to express yourself, but to use the phrases coined by Gombrowicz. Whatever issues Poles have with this author, one thing is certain: we are grateful to him for augmenting our language. Gombrowicz created an archetype of a confused man, whose karma is to move back in time, back to school, with the mentality of an adult. I will even risk a claim that this fact alone lies at the very heart of science fiction - for how might that be possible, and what would happen if such occurence took place? How would that affect the object in queestion? Perhaps my perception of this problem is a bit skewed due to my occupational hazard of a scientist, but for me, "Ferdydurke" is a laboratory novel, where with a literary set of tools we analyze both the situation, and the object, in the vein of the medieval alchemist. This novel, hardly known in the English-speaking world, will be an exhilarating reading experience for you, provided that you will trust me and pick it up. The amusing analysis of the immature world the protagonist found himself in, mixed with elements from all literary forms, from plain mystery, via comedy, to sophisticated analysis of society, makes Ferdydurke an experimental novel of potential interest for all bibliophiles and lovers of the nonstandard.