Other Literary Forms
The preponderance of Witold Gombrowicz’s literary production consists of fictional and nonfictional prose. Besides his plays, he wrote four novels, more than a dozen stories, a three-volume literary diary, a book of “conversations” about his life and art, approximately eighty book reviews, essays, travel accounts, polemical articles, minor short prose pieces, and an unfinished novel. Although he was known first and best for his prose fiction, especially his novels, he eventually won equal recognition as a playwright, and the influence of his plays rivals that of his novels and diary.
Gombrowicz made his debut with a volume of seven short stories, entitled Pamitnik z okresu dojrzewania (1933; memoir from adolescence), and all but one of the remainder of his short stories were written before World War II. Eccentric in form and content, they are masterpieces of the genre, and their style, themes, and obsessions hold the key to his later work. His novels develop inspirations from his stories with great analytical verve and comic inventiveness. His first novel, Ferdydurke (1937; English translation, 1961), is unusually structured, with three individual parts separated by polemical essays and mock-philosophical parables. The three parts of the main plot are unified by the device of temporal and psychosocial regression and descent into a subculture or underworld, leading backward from the hero’s adulthood through adolescence—the stage of life on which the plot...
(The entire section is 614 words.)