Yale Bulletin and Calendar

October 15, 2004|Volume 33, Number 7















A scene from the Teatr Provisorium and Kompania Teatr's production of "Ferdydurke," a stage adaptation of the 1937 novel by Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz.

Events celebrate Polish writer hailed as 'greatest unknown author of our time'

"Ferdydurke," a play about a man forced to relive the trials of adolescence, will be presented on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 22 and 23, as part of a celebration at Yale marking the centenary of Polish author Witold Gombrowicz's birth.

The celebration will also include an international conference on the writer and an exhibition of materials from the Gombrowicz archive at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Witold Gombrowicz (1904-1969) has been described as "the greatest unknown author of our time." His writings -- which included novels, plays, an early collection of short stories and autobiographical works -- have been translated into 30 languages, yet he is little known outside of Europe. Gombrowicz was one of the first European writers to openly address the theme of homosexuality in his works, which were banned first by the Nazi regime and later by the Polish government until the mid-1970s.

Gombrowicz was born in Maloszyce, Poland, in 1904 and studied philosophy and law at the University of Warsaw. His first volume of short stories appeared in 1933. His first novel, "Ferdydurke" (1937), is "one of the most important overlooked books of the 20th century," according to author Susan Sontag, who wrote the introduction for a Yale University Press translation of the book published in 2000. His 1938 play, "Iwona, Ksieznicka Burgunda (Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy)," has been produced throughout the world.

From 1939 to 1963, Gombrowicz lived in Argentina, where he wrote the novel "Trans-Atlantyk," published in 1953 at the same time as the play "Slub (The Marriage)." The first installment of his journal, "Dziennik," considered by some his masterpiece, came out in 1957, followed in 1960 by the novel "Pornografia." In 1965, the year of publication of his final novel, "Kosmos" (which won the International Prize in Literature), Gombrowicz moved to Vence, in the south of France, where he died in 1969.


The Yale Repertory Theatre, the Polish Cultural Institute and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library will present Teatr Provisorium and Kompania Teatr's award-winning stage adaptation of "Ferdydurke" at 8 p.m. on Oct. 22 and 23 in the University Theatre, 222 York St.

The production has been adapted by Allen J. Kuharski and translated by Danuta Borchardt (who also translated the Yale Press edition of the novel). "Ferdydurke" will be performed in English. The Yale show is the first stop in the troupe's U.S. tour. The production will later travel to Los Angeles and Chicago.

"Ferdydurke" is the story of Josef, a 30-year-old writer transformed by a demonic professor of literature into an adolescent and sent back to school "to learn how to do it right." There, he re-experiences the cruelties of adolescence from an adult perspective, complete with school yard taunts, sexual awkwardness and a wrestling match acted out with grotesque facial expressions and alternately pious and obscene gestures.

The companies' co-production of "Ferdydurke" was voted by critics as the Best Production by an Alternative Theatre in Poland in 1999, and as one of the nation's two best productions of 1999 overall. This production also won a Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Festival in 2001. The U.S. tour by Teatr Provisorium and Kompania Theatr has been made possible through a gift from Piotr and Judy Chomczynski.

Tickets for "Ferdydurke" are available by calling (203) 432-1234 or stopping by the Yale Rep box office, corner of Chapel and York streets. Prices range from $10 to $20. Senior, student and group rates are available.

International conference

The international conference at Yale is sponsored by the Beinecke Library, the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and the Yale University Press. It is being presented in conjunction with the Polish Cultural Institute's "Gombrowicz Autumn" celebration (see www.polishculture-NYC.org).

The conference will include three panel discussions. The first, at 2 p.m. on Oct. 22, will feature presentations on Gombrowicz and fellow Polish writer and artist Bruno Shulz, recollections of Gombrowicz's years in exile in Argentina and the author's work for the theater. The second panel, at 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 23, will include talks on translating Gombrowicz and "snapshots" from the author's diary. The third panel, at 2 p.m., will offer perspectives on Gombrowicz and art, nature and America.

The event is free and open to the public. Because seating is limited, registration is advised. For a schedule and registration, visit the website at www.library.yale.edu/beinecke/brblevents/brbllectures.html.


A reception at 6 p.m. on Oct. 22 will mark the opening of the exhibition "The World of Witold Gombrowicz" at the Beinecke Library. The public is invited.

The show draws from the library's Gombrowicz archive, which documents his life and literary output chiefly during the last two decades of his life, as well as the reception of his works after his death. It consists of Gombrowicz's personal papers, correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, theater programs and more.

"The World of Witold Gombrowicz" will be on view through January. The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, 121 Wall St., is open for exhibition viewing 8:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday; and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free. For further information, call (203) 432-2977 or visit the website at www.library.yale.edu/beinecke.


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