“Vodka is very bad for babies.”
The Well, which is only three pages long, was first published in the newspaper Kurier Poranny (The Morning Courier) in Warsaw in 1935. It did not see republication until 1973, four years after Witold Gombrowicz’s death, in the Varia, by Kultura of Paris, Gombrowicz’s editor in Polish.
A brief satire of bourgeois paternity leading to infanticide, The Well explores the theme of the “Virgin (man) with Child.”
The café-pâtisserie Blikle was founded in 1896. Famous for its French doughnuts and other sweets, it was a very chic, elegant spot in the Warsaw of the 1930s.
The name of the main character, Blikle, is a reference to the most famous pastry shop in Warsaw of the same name.
Witold Gombrowicz likely chose the name in ironic reference to the ambient sappiness that surrounded the birth of a child at the time, the incompatibility of an infant with the snobbery of the bourgeoisie, where children were considered as a distraction from more robust and manly occupations.
There is no well in the story. The title can be read as a simple allusion to infanticide. A stereotype of the period was that unwed teenage mothers, especially in the countryside, would shirk their responsibilities by dropping their infant down a well.
Excerpt: “I have delivered a child.”
“Ha, ha, ha!” guffawed the young girls, “he has delivered a child! He has delivered a child!”
“It’s a lie!” he cried, “it’s not me who delivered it, it’s my wife who delivered it!”
“Ha, ha, ha!” roared the young girls, “his wife has delivered a child!”
“Be quiet!” he thundered, “it’s not my wife who delivered it, it’s the child who has been delivered!”
“Ha, ha, ha!” the young girls rolled on the floor laughing, “a child has been delivered to his wife! Blikle-with-a-child, ha, ha, ha, Blikle-with-a-child!” and they all burst out in laughter together.