Ludwik Jerzy Kern

Photo from the archives of Wydawnictwo Literackie

Ludwik Jerzy Kern

Ferdynand the Great

Read by Piotr Czarnota, recorded by Radiofonia Association.
English translation: Anna Chociej
“Your name?” the constable asked.
“DeGreat,” answered Ferdinand.
“First name?”
Ferdinand didn’t know what to say. He was afraid that if he told the truth, the constable would find him suspicious. On the other hand, if he gave him a bigger number, then firstly he would be lying, and secondly it was hardly nice of him to pretend to be older than he was.
“Your age, sir?” the constable insisted.
He had a very stern voice and an awfully menacing moustache. He’d never once looked at Ferdinand, and went on asking questions and writing things down on a piece of paper with his eyes firmly on his desk, sitting across from Ferdinand, who trembled with cold.
“Smerdyfive!” Answered Ferdinand, realising that he needed to say something.
“Very good,” the constable said, paying no attention to the somewhat strange number Ferdinand had just given him. “Is anything missing?”
“No, nothing.”
“Did you have any valuable items on you?”
“No” answered Ferdinand at first. But then he reconsidered, and recalled the medal. “Excuse me, constable, but I seem to have forgotten about something. Yes, I had a certain valuable item on me…”
“And what was it?” The constable asked, scribbling.
“A medal,” Ferdinand admitted. “A golden medal.”
“Was it yours?”
“Yes, indeed.”
“Can I possibly ask where you got it?”
“At the Dog Show”
“So you have a keen interest in dogs?”
“To a certain extent, constable,” said Ferdinand, regaining his natural confidence.
“So, has the medal been stolen, by any chance?” Asked the constable.
“One second, constable, I need to check.”
“Be my guest.”
Naked, Ferdinand searched the pockets of his entire wardrobe.
“This one’s empty, so is this one, and this one, and this one, and this one, and this one, and this one, and this one, and this one too. Hold it, the last one has and extra pocket… No, it’s not here. Constable, my medal has been stolen.”
“Don’t worry, sir,” said the constable firmly. “We will do everything we can to return that medal to you. Please, stay here and I will go and have a word with our criminals.
English translation: Anna Chociej

Ludwik Jerzy Kern

(1920-2010) poet, journalist, translator, song writer and author of books for children, a many years’ member of the editorial board of the Przekrój magazine.

His poetic debut took place in 1938. He spent the war in Warsaw, but after the fall of the Warsaw Uprising he moved to Krakow. He lived here permanently from 1948, when he also connected himself with the weekly Przekrój, the co-operation with which he finished after as many as 54 years, in 2002. In the weekly magazine, he published his poems, satires, reportages and reviews, editing also its last page, the Rozmaitości column. He wrote many famous songs, including Nie bądź taki szybki Bill and Wojna domowa. He was also a co-producer of television programmes: Kernalia, czyli cztery łapy or Karnawał ante portas. Some of his children stories, including Ferdynand Wspaniały (Ferdynand the Great) — telling about a dog which very much wanted to be a man — were made into short “goodnight” films for children.

He published a few volumes of memories, in which he discussed his cooperation with the figures of the Krakow artistic and literary circles, including Moje abecadłowo. Additionally, he translated English and French literature, including Isaac Bashevis Singer’s books. (mj)

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