Witold Gombrowicz (gawm-BRAW-veech), one of the greatest twentieth century innovators of Polish prose and drama, was born on the estate of his father in Maoszyce (about 125 miles east of Warsaw). He was educated privately at home before he was sent to the Wielopolski Lyceum in Warsaw in 1915. Between 1923 and 1926 Gombrowicz studied law at the University of Warsaw, where he obtained his master’s degree. Though he detested the legal profession, Gombrowicz believed that this course of study would provide him with knowledge set in an exact discipline.
During an ostensibly academic sojourn in France following his graduation Gombrowicz led a questionable social life. Eventually, when his father refused to support him any longer, Witold was forced to return to Poland, where he obtained a modest position in the Warsaw courts.
The young writer’s first short stories soon made their appearance: Seven tales were published in 1933 under the collected title Pamitnik z okresu dojrzewania (diary from the period of maturing). After the publication of this work Gombrowicz left his legal career and dedicated himself entirely to literature. In 1934 he wrote his first drama, Iwona, which was, however, not staged until many years later. Gombrowicz also published a few critical articles and polemics in Varsovian literary gazettes. Following Iwona, two years’ work on his first preserved novel was crowned in the year 1937 with the publication of Ferdydurke, which became Gombrowicz’s best-known, best-received, and most successful work of fiction.
In this early work the main problem Gombrowicz addressed throughout his entire later period—the problem of form and chaos—is already articulated. “Form” is shorthand for the repressive, conformist forces that individuals struggle against despite...
(The entire section is 756 words.)