Fritz Karinthy: “Refund”

A really funny farce, exploiting a new idea, is a rarity, and to be treasured as such. “Refund”, the Editor is persuaded, complies with those requirements.

There is a Central European saying, “You’re an ass! Go get your tuition back!” and it is this that Fritz Karinthy has developed into a delightfully hilarious farce : the teachers who once graduated Wasserkopf are compelled to re-examine him, his object now being to fail.

When not dealing with a classic, an adaptor has the right to take liberties. His readers have an equal right to know the content of the original. In justice to both, the principal changes in the text are detailed here.

At the opening of the play, the Principal declares that if the visitor looks stupid he can be no school-inspector. It is better farce to state the opposite. Karinthy’s last line is a rather pointless reference to the same inspector — who never appears. A stronger line has been substituted. The History Teacher’s question leads to a play on the word gleich, which may mean either “right away” or “the same.” Being untranslatable, the English renders the spirit and not the words. In the original, Wasserkopf is apologetic at the end, though he recovers enough to exit with the remark: “Good day to you, professors. Now I’m going to use my abilities and my diploma in a job as a street-cleaner.” It is technically preferable to end a play in the key it maintains throughout, hence both Wasserkopf’s change of heart and his final plaint remain untranslated. They are material for another play, and one that is not laughable.

It is customary for Hungarian school reports to begin with ratings in manners and physical culture. The way in which the author enables Wasserkopf to pass in those subjects is surely unprecedented.

Karinthy, born in 1888, is a voluminous writer. His publications include “Igy irtok ti”, “Kötéltánc”, “Kì kìrdezett?”, “Tanár úr kérem”, “Harun al Rasid”, “Holnap Reggel” (a play), “Utazás Faremidóba”, “Capillaria” (a continuation of “Gulliver’s Travels”), and a German translation of the “Travels” themselves. He is President of the Hungarian Esperanto Society. He is by far the most celebrated of living Hungarian humorists.

“Refund” is adapted from Karinthy’s own German manuscript version, entitled “Ich verlange das Schulgeld zurück.”

SOURCE: Karinthy, Fritz. “Refund: A Farce,” adapted by Percival Wilde, in One-Act Plays from Nine Countries, edited by Percival Wilde (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1936), pp. 357-376. This introduction, pp. 357-358.

Note: “He is President of the Hungarian Esperanto Society.”

See also:

The Refund (A Play in One Act for Seven Males) by Frigyes Karinthy, adapted by Percival Wilde (1938) [on this site].

Refund (1938) Fritz Karinthy (original) / Percival Wilde (English Adaptation), Mathematical Fiction database.

The Drama: A Farce-Satire in One Act
by Frigyes Karinthy

Frigyes & Ferenc Karinthy in English

Frigyes (Frederiko) Karinthy (1887-1938) en Esperanto

Futurology, Science Fiction, Utopia, and Alienation
in the Work of Imre Madách, György Lukács, and Other Hungarian Writers:
Select Bibliography

Esperanto & Interlinguistics Study Guide / Retgvidilo pri Esperanto & Interlingvistiko

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