From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
AuthorWitold Gombrowicz
TranslatorDanuta Borchardt
Cover artistBruno Schulz
PublisherTowarzystwo Wydawnicze "Rój", Warsaw (1st ed); Harcourt, Brace and World (New York 1961); Yale University Press (2000)
Publication date
Oct 1937 (1st ed dated 1938)
Published in English
1961 (1st US ed), Aug 2000 (new translation)
Media typePrint (Hardcover & trade paperback)
Pages281pp (YUP ed)
ISBN0-300-08240-1 (YUP pb), ISBN 0-7145-3403-X (2005 UK pb)
891.8/5273 21
LC ClassPG7158.G669 F4713 2000

Ferdydurke is a novel by the Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz, published in 1937. It was his first and most controversial novel.[1]

The book has been described as a "cult novel".[2]

Author's comment[edit]

Gombrowicz himself wrote of his novel that it is not "... a satire on some social class, nor a nihilistic attack on culture... We live in an era of violent changes, of accelerated development, in which settled forms are breaking under life's pressure... The need to find a form for what is yet immature, uncrystalized and underdeveloped, as well as the groan at the impossibility of such a postulate – this is the chief excitement of my book."[3]


The first translation of the novel, to Spanish, published in Buenos Aires in 1947, was done by Gombrowicz himself. A translation committee presided over by the Cuban writer Virgilio Piñera helped him in this endeavor, since Gombrowicz felt that he did not know the language well enough at the time to do it on his own. Gombrowicz again collaborated on a French translation of the book, with Ronald Martin in 1958. A direct German translation by Walter Tiel was published in 1960. In 2006, the first Brazilian Portuguese translation by Tomasz Barciński, direct from the Polish original text, was delivered.

The first English translation of Ferdydurke, by Eric Mosbacher, was published in 1961. It was a combined indirect translation of the French, German and possibly Spanish translations. In 2000, Yale University Press published the first direct translation from the original Polish.[4] The 2000 edition, translated by Danuta Borchardt, has an introduction by Susan Sontag.

Direct and indirect translations now exist in over twenty languages.[5]


Jerzy Skolimowski directed the 1991 film adaptation of Ferdydurke (alternate English title: 30 Door Key) with an international cast including Iain Glen, Crispin Glover, Beata Poźniak, Robert Stephens, Judith Godrèche, Zbigniew Zamachowski, and Fabienne Babe.

In 1999, Ferdydurke was adapted into a stage play by Provisorium & Kompania Theater from Lublin.


The novel has been described as a "meditation on stupidity and immaturity", with its other main themes being the tragedy of passing from immature, utopian youth to adulthood, and the degree to which culture can infantilize various subjects.[1][6]


The book was Gombrowicz's first and most controversial novel.[1] It has been described since as a cult novel.[2] Writing in 1995, Warren F. Motte commented that the book "exemplifies that rare bird of literary avant-garde: a text that retains, decades after its initial publication, the power to shock.".[7]


Among works influenced by the book is Jacek Dukaj's novel Other Songs.[8]


  1. ^ a b c Hanjo Berressem (1998). Lines of Desire: Reading Gombrowicz's Fiction with Lacan. Northwestern University Press. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-8101-1309-1.
  2. ^ a b Magda Romanska (1 October 2014). The Post-traumatic Theatre of Grotowski and Kantor: History and Holocaust in ‘Akropolis’ and ‘Dead Class’. Anthem Press. p. 215. ISBN 978-1-78308-321-3.
  3. ^ * Danuta Borchardt: Translating Witold Gombrowicz's Ferdydurke
  4. ^ Eva Hoffman: Stream of Subconsciousness – review in The New York Times 10 December 2000
  5. ^ Bibliography of translations of Ferdydurke
  6. ^ Michael Goddard (2010). Gombrowicz, Polish Modernism, and the Subversion of Form. Purdue University Press. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-55753-552-8.
  7. ^ Warren F. Motte (1995). Playtexts: Ludics in Contemporary Literature. U of Nebraska Press. pp. 51–. ISBN 0-8032-3181-4.
  8. ^ Tokarz, Bożena (2014). "Świadomość formy w powieści Jacka Dukaja Inne pieśni". Zagadnienia Rodzajów Literackich (in Polish). 57/114 z. 2: 163–176. ISSN 0084-4446.

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