First published in Polish in 1932, The Career of Nicodemus Dyzma was Tadeusz Dolega-Mostowicz's breakout novel. Dyzma is an unemployed clerk who crashes a swanky party, where he makes an offhand crass remark that sets him on a new course. Soon high society-from government ministers to drug-fueled aristocrats-wants a piece of him. As Dyzma's status grows, his vulgarity is interpreted as authenticity and strength. He is unable to comprehend complicated political matters, but his cryptic responses are celebrated as wise introspection. His willingness to do anything to hold on to power-flip-flopping on political positions, inventing xenophobic plots, even having enemies assaulted-only leads to greater success.
Dolega-Mostowicz wrote his novel in a newly independent Poland rampant with political corruption and populist pandering. Jerzy Kosinski borrowed heavily from the novel when he wrote Being There, and readers of both books will recognize similarities between their plots. This biting political satire-by turns hilarious and disturbing, contemptuous and sympathetic-is an indictment of a system in which money and connections matter above all else, bluster and ignorance are valorized, and a deeply incompetent man rises to the highest spheres of government.