A rambunctious set of opinions, partly in story form, is a little like Tristram Shandy though with less humor and fun. The book has had a long and controversial career since its first Polish publication in 1937, and, as the author admits, reflects or prophesies a number of European philosophical-political dilemmas. But in what odd shape! The hero, 30, still gleefully balanced between youth and maturity, is humiliatingly snatched back into school by a doddering, verbose professor. The other boys fight among each other with words, or in a duel of making faces; all of this is related, throughout the book, to the power of attitudes (creeds, words, which can educate, fossilize or actually kill) versus the human tendency to fragment itself, spiritually and physically, in gestures. Thus our hero, a ""boy"" in the household of the determinedly modern Youthful family, breaks the hold of youth by introducing chaos, and leaves them mouthing ""enlightened"" creeds. Having smashed that set of attitudes, he does the same for some country gentry, and provokes a run-around comedy in which roles are switched which ends again in chaos and flight... The form, the crude farce tone, even the symbols, are not for everyone-but there is an astonishing, unsettling truth in this book about the attitudes and ways in which people deal with reality. It is acutely attuned to almost every split in the modern world.