Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
Piorkowski’s school. Institution in which Ferdydurke is forced to enroll when mistakenly believed to be only half his actual age. Much of the humor of this section of the novel stems from Ferdydurke’s realization that there is a sense in which he does in fact belong in school. Because he learned little during his earlier years as a student, a further round of education is in theory a reasonable prescription for his self-confessed ignorance. The education provided at Mr. Piorkowski’s school, however, is not likely to prepare anyone for a successful future. This establishment is depicted as an anarchic wasteland whose staff members are incompetent, and whose students are clever only at avoiding the need to learn anything. Its classrooms are portrayed as war zones in which students oppressed by mindless rules strike back with stubborn silence. Ferdydurke eventually concludes that he must escape this madhouse if he wants to avoid being warped by its insane methods of operation.
Youthful home. Residence of the Youthful family, whose name symbolizes their commitment to the radical reform of society. Ferdydurke goes to live with them in hopes of discovering a more nurturing environment but soon finds out that the Youthfuls are, if anything, more oblivious to his real needs than are the people at Mr. Piorkowski’s school: Where the school tries to stamp out student curiosity by force, the Youthfuls’ efforts to abolish...
(The entire section is 621 words.)
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Gombrowicz, Witold. Diary, Volume 1. Edited by Jan Kott and translated by Lillian Vallee. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1988. Gombrowicz himself provides some of the best insight into the novel in this first volume of his diaries, which he began in 1953 for serial publication in the Polish emigré press.
Gmri George. “The Antinomies of Witold Gombrowicz.” Modern Language Review 73 (January, 1978): 119-129. A brief but essential introduction to Gombrowicz’s major themes, with special attention to Ferdydurke, and emphasis on his use of paradox.
Holmgren, Beth. “Witold Gombrowicz in the United States.” The Polish Review 33, no. 4 (1988): 409-418. Gombrowicz has remained a rather obscure figure in the United States, and this article addresses some of the reasons why. Also gives a thorough overview of work on Gombrowicz in English.
Longinovic, Tomislav. Borderline Culture: The Politics of Identity in Four Twentieth-Century Slavic Novels. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1993. Discusses the conflict of identity and ideology in Ferdydurke, and argues that it is a parody of the entire Western metaphysical tradition.
Thompson, Ewa. Witold Gombrowicz. Boston: Twayne, 1979. An excellent introduction to Gombrowicz, a straightforward discussion of his life and works. Includes a bibliography.