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Witold Gombrowicz

Photo by B. Paczkowski

Witold Gombrowicz

Ferdydurke

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Read by Piotr Czarnota, recorded by Radiofonia Association
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English translation:  Danuta Borchardt
The English-language edition is published by Yale University Press and is included with permission.

I could not budge. If I changed my pose, it would be obvious that I had heard her, and she would perceive it as yet another mannerism, from now on everything I did would be a mannerism. Whereupon the schoolgirl turns from the window, looks me over as I sit there unable to revert to something more natural, and I see her unfriendly look, which makes it even more difficult to change my position. I also see the girl's cutting, young-blooded hostility welling up - a pure, whiplike hostility. And it wells up to such a degree that her mother feels obliged to interrupt her conversation and ask her daughter en camarade, buddy-buddy fashion:

“Why do you look at him like that, Zuta?”

The schoolgirl does not take her eyes off me, and, loyal to her mother – she's all loyalty now, she's loyal, frank, and direct – puckers her cute little lips and spits out:

“He's been eavesdropping all this time. He's heard everything.”

Oh! That was razor-sharp!... I wanted to protest, yet I couldn't. The Youngblood woman lowered her voice and, savoring the girl's outburst, said to the professor:

“Nowadays our girls are exeptionally sensitive about loyalty and naturalness – they're quite crazy on that point. That's the new generation. The morality of the Great War. We're children of the Great War, we and our children”. She was obviously relishing it all. “It's the new generation,” she repeated.

“Look how her pretty little eyes darkened,” the little old man said good-naturedly.

“Pretty little eyes? My daughter doesn't have 'pretty little eyes', Professor, she has eyes. We all have - eyes. Zuta, keep your eyes still.”

The girl switched off her facial expression and shrugged her soulders in repudiation of her mother. Pimko was shocked, and remarked to Mrs. Yogungblood as an aside:

“Do you consider this to be proper behaviour?... In my time a young person wouldn't dare dare shrug her shoulders... and at her mother too!”

But the Youngblood woman was ready for him, this was up her alley, and she let him have it with vigor:

“It's the era, Professor, the era! You don't know the contemporary generation. Profound changes are afoot. A great revolution in customs and traditions, this is a wind that demolishes, these are subterranean upheavals and we're riding upon them. It's the era! We have to build anew! Demolish everything that's old in this country of ours, leave only the new, demolish Kraków!”

“Kraków?!” Pimko exclaimed.

English translation:  Danuta Borchardt
The English-language edition is published by Yale University Press and is included with permission.
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Witold Gombrowicz

 (1904–1969) – a prose writer and playwright, one of the most eminent Polish writers of the 20th century. Came from a wealthy family of landed gentry, which he liked to boast in leftists circles. In turn, among the aristocracy, he played the role of a progressive socialist. Made his début in 1933, with Pamiętnik z okresu dojrzewania (Bacacay). Just before the second world war, he emigrated to Argentina, where he lived and worked for many years. In the 1940s, together with a group of friends, Gombrowicz translated his Ferdydurke into Spanish, which had a powerful impact on all literature in the Spanish language. Beginning with 1953, he published excerpts from his Dziennik (Diaries) in Parisian Kultura (Culture) journal. Did not manage to return to Poland before his death, and died in France. For years, his works have been published by the Krakow-based Wydawnictwo Literackie publishing house. (ms)

 

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