Originally published 1932
|Adaptations Career of Nikos Dyzma (2002), The Career of Nikodem Dyzma|
Polish Language books Zly, Ferdydurke, The Promised Land, The Coming Spring, Trans‑Atlantyk
The Career of Nicodemus Dyzma (Polish title: Kariera Nikodema Dyzmy) is a 1932 Polish bestselling novel by Tadeusz Dołęga-Mostowicz. It was his first major literary success with immediate material rewards prompting Mostowicz to write and publish roughly two books per year (in total, he wrote 17 novels).
The book, very popular already in the interwar period, was made into a 1956 Polish film with Adolf Dymsza in the title role, then into a 1980 television miniseries starring Roman Wilhelmi and in 2002 into a comedy film starring Cezary Pazura.
Nicodemus Dyzma is a small-town man who comes to the Polish capital from the Eastern provinces (known as "Kresy") in search of work. While walking the streets of Warsaw, he finds a lost invitation to a party reception. Hoping for a free meal, he decides to use it since he owns a tuxedo. At the reception, he befriends a Member of Parliament and wins the hearts of guests with his attitude. He is introduced to a wealthy landowner by the name of Kunicki, a former con artist, who is so impressed by Dyzma that he offers him a job as superintendent of his country estate. At the estate, Dyzma meets Kunicki's wife, Nina, who quickly falls in love with him. Soon Dyzma takes control of all affairs of the estate and starts to climb the social and political ladder. He is offered a series of prestigious appointments; however, he is also forced to hide his past from the prying eyes of his adversaries and the general public.
Nicodemus Dyzma has become proverbial in Poland as an archetype of the crude opportunist who makes his upwardly-mobile way by dint of fortuitous connections, ruthlessness and the acquiescence of an oblivious society.
He is forced by the spirit of his times and the society around him to become something they need him to become. Ignorant and malleable, Dyzma turns into a puppet in the hands of the elite class. Whatever happens to him during his climb of the social ladder falls outside of his mental, financial and legal competence.
An American novel, Being There (1970), by fellow Polish native Jerzy Kosiński, has been said to bear strong resemblance to the exploits of Nicodemus Dyzma. In June 1982, a Village Voice article by Geoffrey Stokes and Eliot Fremont-Smith accused Kosiński of plagiarizing Dołęga-Mostowicz, whose best-selling novel was largely unknown to English readers at the time of Kosiński's 1971 publication. The article also claimed that all of Kosiński's novels, including Being There, had actually been ghost-written or possibly translated from Polish by his "assistant editors," pointing to striking stylistic differences among them and sparking further authorship controversies about Kosiński's literary output. Being There was filmed by Hal Ashby in 1979 under the same title, starring Peter Sellers.