Hot Best Seller

The Complete Fiction of Bruno Schulz: The Street of Crocodiles, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass

Availability: Ready to download

The Street of Crocodiles in the Polish city of Drogobych is a street of memories and dreams where recollections of Bruno Schulz's uncommon boyhood and of the eerie side of his merchant family's life are evoked in a startling blend of the real and the fantastic. Most memorable - and most chilling - is the portrait of the author's father, a maddened shopkeeper who imports ra The Street of Crocodiles in the Polish city of Drogobych is a street of memories and dreams where recollections of Bruno Schulz's uncommon boyhood and of the eerie side of his merchant family's life are evoked in a startling blend of the real and the fantastic. Most memorable - and most chilling - is the portrait of the author's father, a maddened shopkeeper who imports rare birds' eggs to hatch in his attic, who believes tailors' dummies should be treated like people, and whose obsessive fear of cockroaches causes him to resemble one. Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass is the second and final work of Bruno Schulz, the acclaimed Polish writer killed by the Nazis during World War II. In the words of Isaac Bashevis Singer, "What he did in his short life was enough to make him one of the most remarkable writers who ever lived." Weaving myth, fantasy, and reality, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass, is, to quote Schulz, "an attempt at eliciting the history of a certain family...by a search for the mythical sense, the essential core of that history.


Compare

The Street of Crocodiles in the Polish city of Drogobych is a street of memories and dreams where recollections of Bruno Schulz's uncommon boyhood and of the eerie side of his merchant family's life are evoked in a startling blend of the real and the fantastic. Most memorable - and most chilling - is the portrait of the author's father, a maddened shopkeeper who imports ra The Street of Crocodiles in the Polish city of Drogobych is a street of memories and dreams where recollections of Bruno Schulz's uncommon boyhood and of the eerie side of his merchant family's life are evoked in a startling blend of the real and the fantastic. Most memorable - and most chilling - is the portrait of the author's father, a maddened shopkeeper who imports rare birds' eggs to hatch in his attic, who believes tailors' dummies should be treated like people, and whose obsessive fear of cockroaches causes him to resemble one. Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass is the second and final work of Bruno Schulz, the acclaimed Polish writer killed by the Nazis during World War II. In the words of Isaac Bashevis Singer, "What he did in his short life was enough to make him one of the most remarkable writers who ever lived." Weaving myth, fantasy, and reality, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass, is, to quote Schulz, "an attempt at eliciting the history of a certain family...by a search for the mythical sense, the essential core of that history.

30 review for The Complete Fiction of Bruno Schulz: The Street of Crocodiles, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass

  1. 4 out of 5

    Fionnuala

    Review composed of A Chorus of Voices 1.00 March 3rd 2016 — voice of The Reviewer As I was reading through this book, a great many thoughts and impressions formed in my mind, and there they have lain since, each waiting for a chance to push itself into a prime position in this review space. So, for the moment, I'm just sitting on them, frantically trying to hold them down as I think how to shape them in a way that will be vaguely comprehensible to someone who hasn't read this book or doesn't live Review composed of A Chorus of Voices 1.00 March 3rd 2016 — voice of The Reviewer As I was reading through this book, a great many thoughts and impressions formed in my mind, and there they have lain since, each waiting for a chance to push itself into a prime position in this review space. So, for the moment, I'm just sitting on them, frantically trying to hold them down as I think how to shape them in a way that will be vaguely comprehensible to someone who hasn't read this book or doesn't live inside my head. But the task will certainly involve excluding some of those many impressions, and I can sense already that I'll have a rebellion on my hands as stray thoughts I had discarded steal into the review while I'm asleep. I will have to be very vigilant, perhaps enter into some kind of contract with the review space so that it will refuse entry to thoughts that don't carry a pass signed by me personally. I'll be watching this space. ................................................................ 3.30 March 3rd — voices of The Reviewer's Stray Thoughts We are the tandeta, the reviewer's stray thoughts, and though we have no clothes as yet, we are determined to camp in this review space. Bruno Schulz himself has given us permission and we defy anyone to remove us. ............................................................... 13.00 March 4th — voice of The Reviewer I had to look up the word 'tandeta' which has just appeared in the review space (see above and comment #4), and I discovered that it is an almost untranslatable Polish word which Schulz uses regularly, a word that means variously: 'trash', 'shoddy', 'cast-off'. It also means the kind of market where such second-rate goods can be found, a flea-market, for example. And now I see that the group of decrepit military wax-figures which the narrator frees from a wax museum in the story called 'Spring', and which you can see in the Bruno Schulz drawing above, are declaring themselves in support of the stray thoughts I had decided weren't fit for purpose. I had marshaled what I thought of as the more worthy thoughts into a coherent paragraph earlier this morning and was quite pleased with the result. Now I'm not so sure—but I refuse to be intimidated by a bunch of moth-eaten ex-generals so I'll post the paragraph anyway: Schulz is a magician. From the blank interior of his top-hat, he pulls streams and streams of multi-hued words, words that separate and reform into pink doves, blue buzzards, red storks, yellow pelicans, each with long ribbons of syllables dangling from their beaks. And when the ribbons break off, they float away on the breeze, looping and dipping in arabesques across a papery sky, spelling out stories, one stranger than the next, stories for then, stories for now, stories for ever... ........................................................... 15.00 March 5th — voices of The Reviewer's Stray Thoughts We feel the Reviewer is unfairly relegating the concept of ‘tandeta’ which is central to Schulz’s stories. His narrator shines a bright light on things the world generally considers as only fit for the rubbish heap. One story, for example, focuses on an old almanac the narrator loved to look through as a child and which he later comes across when most of its pages have been torn out to serve some domestic purpose, perhaps to light the fire in the stove. He endows the ragged remains of this old catalogue of ancient dates and obsolete advertisements with the properties of every book that ever existed. It becomes 'The Book of Books'. And so we realise that from ‘tandeta’ or rubbish, the narrator believes something truly beautiful can be created. This experience is repeated again and again throughout the stories as the things people generally seek to discard become instead things of beauty. A faded curtain stiff with dust, dead flies on a windowpane, moss covered paths, old tree roots, such things are constantly celebrated. Bruno Schulz writes 'Under The Sign of the Rubbish Heap'. .............................................................. 15.55 March 5th — voice of The Penguin Classics Edition Since it seems that anything can happen on this review page, the book itself surely has a right to speak. Yes, this edition of Bruno Schulz’s collected stories is claiming space to announce that what the reader gets inside the covers of this book is nothing less than magical: thirty stories and novellas plus thirty illustrations by Schulz himself. The stories are drawn from the two collections published in the author’s lifetime, 'Cinnamon Shops' from 1933 and 'Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass', from 1937 (though written earlier than the stories in Cinnamon Shops) plus a few other stories that had appeared in periodicals and journals around that time. Not all of the stories are illustrated but where they occur, the fantastical nature of the drawings complements the hallucinatory narratives perfectly, introducing a further layer of eccentricity to the work. However, even when there are no illustrations, the words cast surreal images onto the screen of the reader’s mind: Father was listening. In the silence of the night his ear seemed to grow larger and to reach out beyond the window: a fantastic coral, a red polypus watching the chaos of the night. The translation in this edition was done by Celina Wieniewska, and the rich and exciting language of the stories is the proof of the success of her work, which was not an easy task as David A. Goldfarb points out in the introduction. According to Goldfarb, Bruno Schulz uses a number of words that are so obscure even in Polish that Wieniewska was obliged to be very creative in order to render them in English. This Penguin Classics edition, standing in for the author who would certainly have been exceedingly grateful to her, bows before Wieniewska’s talent and would kiss her feet. .......................................................... 20.50 March 5th — voices of The Reviewer's Stray Thoughts The peacock-feather eye peeping through the keyhole, the pattern on wallpaper shifting to echo the father’s frowns, the squares of a parquet floor endlessly counting themselves in horizontal creaks and vertical cracks, chimney smoke weaving to avoid the wind, lamps with arms akimbo, mirrors that appear elderly—everything in a Schulz story, even the shadow on the wall, is personified, so that the reader should not be at all surprised when the book the stories inhabit itself speaks aloud as it has done above. Have you ever noticed swallows rising in flocks from between the lines of certain books? One should read the flight of these birds.. .......................................................... 2.00 am March 6th — voices of The Review-Edit Box How many services we provide, we, the humble Edit-Boxes of this Goodreads world! We offer a luminous space where a winking curser waits patiently to receive the reviewer's words, words which may be written in a thousand different ways depending on the reviewer in question, sometimes baldly, sometimes boldly, sometimes in hints and ellipses, dashes and dots. The gaps in comprehension that result have to be filled by the vague guesses and suppositions of review readers, and we always offer our sympathy for the predicament they find themselves in, especially if they feel called upon to comment after reading. At other times we, the review boxes, are packed tight with dense blocks of text, and not a paragraph break occurs to offer a breathing space. Our sighs are then as audible as the readers’ who attempt to decipher the text, bless their dedicated souls. Please let some air in, we entreat them, and when occasionally an obliging reader selects a phrase, a sentence, or on a good day, an entire paragraph, to copy into a comment box, how we cheer and applaud! It relieves the tedium. When we're very bored we call in Madame Autocorrect and let her loose on the text. Afterwords we sit patiently like spiders in a web, waiting for an unsuspecting reader to come along, and when they do, we roll about laughing as they scroll back and forth scanning the autocorrected words in a state of the greatest perplexity. Such fun—especially if the referees are posturing from a ballsy scream and can't feck back easily to see how the next has appalled. Our favourite reviewers are those who use html to vary our presentation by means of italics, spoilers, links and images. Imagine the sport as we take bets on which links will refuse to work and which images will fail in the days that follow. The truth is, it's very easy to interfere with html code; if we breathe out in a vigorous way, a vital element can fly off like a button from an overcoat. That can be an amusing exercise. Needless to add, our favourite readers are those who pause to press the Like button with a good firm touch (no light, tickly ones, please). Then, the utter thrill—there is nothing to compare with it! ........................................................ 12.12 March 6th — voices of The End of the Review Committee Speaking in our capacity as members of the final section of this review, we have voted to set it in place here and now, and to block any further delays and prevarications in the finalisation of this review. Three days is more than enough time for a review to be ‘ongoing’; there is a limit to everything. And while we are aware that certain topics have not been covered or only very sketchily, we don’t support the idea that any review should ever seek to be totally comprehensive. The shorter the better is our motto, especially as such a policy allows 'The End of the Review' to be reached more speedily. As to the length of 'The End of the Review', we are more flexible on that point since everyone agrees that 'the ending' is the most important part of any piece of writing. We deem it relevant to note here also that this particular review is more playful than we might like, a fact we tolerate in this case because it underlines that Bruno Schulz tells most of his stories from the point of view of a child with a very vivid imagination and a very extravagant taste in metaphor, at least in our opinion. As in this review, Schulz’s stories are filled with distortions of time and space, both being given life and agency over their surroundings, something we are also less than comfortable with, let it be noted. The result of such manipulation is a certain warped effect, as if viewing an event through the glass of a very old window where sometimes the view is completley clear and at other times completely fuzzy, not an ideal outcome in our considered opinion. Furthermore, as in the sections of this review which, in spite of their differences in style and tone, are nevertheless part of a whole, Schulz’s stories share characters and locations so that instead of reading as individual pieces, they rather build into one long novel, a fact which may offer satisfaction to the reader who prefers novels to short stories. Knowing that Schulz was born quite a few years after his brother and sister, and when his father had begun to grow old, encourages us to postulate that these stories contain many autobiographical elements since they mostly feature an elderly father and his young son. The mother and a servant called Adela also roam from story to story and provide some entertainment, Adela in particular, who, with her broom constantly to hand, sweeps away entire heaps of ‘tandeta’ whenever she gets the chance, something we would have enjoyed doing in this review had we but a broom. We quite liked Adela.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dave Schaafsma

    “The books we read in childhood don't exist anymore; they sailed off with the wind, leaving bare skeletons behind. Whoever still has in him the memory and marrow of childhood should rewrite these books as he experienced them.”―Bruno Schulz “My ideal goal is to 'mature' into childhood. That would be genuine maturity."―Bruno Schulz Bruno Schulz was a high school art teacher, an artist and a short story writer who was killed by the Gestapo when he was 50 for straying into a non-Jewish or Aryan area o “The books we read in childhood don't exist anymore; they sailed off with the wind, leaving bare skeletons behind. Whoever still has in him the memory and marrow of childhood should rewrite these books as he experienced them.”―Bruno Schulz “My ideal goal is to 'mature' into childhood. That would be genuine maturity."―Bruno Schulz Bruno Schulz was a high school art teacher, an artist and a short story writer who was killed by the Gestapo when he was 50 for straying into a non-Jewish or Aryan area of his hometown of Drohobych, Poland. He was unmarried, had no children, and lived all of his life in Drohobych. He had a pretty long term friendship with the poet Deborah Vogel, whose parents disapproved of their relationship, but his stories in The Street of Crocodiles had their beginnings in a series of letters to Vogel. “On Saturday afternoons I used to go for a walk with my mother. From the dusk of the hallway, we stepped at once into the brightness of the day. The passerby, bathed in melting gold, had their eyes half-closed against the glare, as if they were drenched with honey, upper lips were drawn back, exposing the teeth. Everyone in this golden day wore that grimace of heat–-as if the sun had forced his worshippers to wear identical masks of gold. The old and the young, women and children, greeted each other with these masks, painted on their faces with thick gold paint; they smiled at each other's pagan faces–-the barbaric smiles of Bacchus.”―The Street of Crocodiles Urban, Polish, Jewish, dark laughter, lust. Roth, Malamud, Stuart Dybek’s Polish Chicago. Thomas Mann, Kafka, Isaac Bashevis Singer’s The Spinoza of Market Street. Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Baudelaire. Blake. “Dizzy with light, we dipped into the enormous book of holidays, its pages blazing with sunshine and scented with the sweet melting pulp of golden pears.”-- The Street of Crocodiles Matter matters to Schulz. He especially loves rot, fecundity, fermentation, trash, old things, antiques, things imbued through experience and ripening with memory. The memory in objects. “A cabinet of curiosities.” Each item, each object, painted alive with magic. Extra rooms emerge in houses, extra streets appear in the night. The mythicization of reality. Like Mann’s imbuing stories with classical truths/references. Or Eliot’s objective correlative. But also surrealist transformations, like Kafka’s metamorphosis. Cockroaches figure in as equally as birds. Darkness overcomes the light, finally. “Poetry happens when short circuits of sense occur between words.”―Schulz “Nimrod began to understand that what he was experiencing was, in spite of its appearance of novelty, something which had existed before–many times before. His body began to recognize situations, impressions, and objects. In reality, none of these astonished him very much. Faced with new circumstances, he would dip into the fount of his memory, the deep-seated memory of the body, would search blindly and feverishly, and often find ready made within himself a suitable reaction: the wisdom of generations, deposited in his plasma, in his nerves. He found actions and decisions of which he had not been aware but which had been lying in wait, ready to emerge.”―Crocodiles Magic matters to Schulz. Matter is made of magic, at its best. Mirages, fata morgana. Surrealism, magical realism, mesmerism, a kind of early Steam Punk fascination that modernism had with science, with physics and its possible relationship to metaphysics. A fascination with “essence” and the ability of the artist to “capture” the “nature of reality”. Ecstasy in the every day. And invention. The role of the demiurge in the forging of reality. Manifestations of the Unknown. Joy and pain issues forth from this magic. Horror emerges out of fantasy. It can go either way, into light or darkness, but it is magic, either way. “My father was slowly fading, wilting before our eyes."--Crocodiles The father in this story as mad, crazy genius, but mad. Ornithologist. Comic madness alternating with despair, a kind of bipolar alteration, story to story. “August” is ecstasy, “Visitation:” despair. Dark laughter. “The days hardened with cold and boredom like last year's loaves of bread. One began to cut them with blunt knives without appetite, with a lazy indifference.” ― Crocodiles “Even in the depths of sleep, in which he had to satisfy his need for protection and love by curling himself up into a trembling ball, he could not rid himself of the feeling of loneliness and homelessness.”― Crocodiles Odd vignettes, ephemera, anecdotes. Uneven? Yes. Enigmatic. No sense of "wholeness" or "the well-shaped Freytag's Pyramid" as in The Art of the Short Story. There’s almost no dialogue in any of the stories. Except when Father pontificates his views of the world. The stories are all narrated, reported, instead of enacted. Not much happens. Animals talk. Birds are everywhere. Father becomes one of his birds. But it’s not about plot; it’s about magic. "The sun-dried thistles shout, the plantains swell and boast their shameless flesh, the weeds salivate with glistening poison. . . "―-Crocodiles A fascination with maps, labyrinths, but not as sense-making tools. Patterns ending in wonder, not an articulation of order. It's more important to get lost than find your way. The best stories include “Birds,” “Cinnamon Shops,” “The Street of Crocodiles,” “The Night of the Great Season,” and “The Comet.” Here's an excerpt of the Quay Brothers's The Street of Crocodiles stop action film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNOfs...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    This is an extraordinary work by a truly amazing writer. Bruno Schulz lived in Poland until he was killed by the Nazis (there are two different stories of how he died, one more 'romantic' than the other; no matter, he ended up with others in an unmarked grave). He published two major and amazing works, Cinnamon Shops also known as Street of Crocodiles, and The Sanitorium Under the Hourglass. This is some of the most exuberant and unique prose you'll ever encounter. It's magical surrealism, unteth This is an extraordinary work by a truly amazing writer. Bruno Schulz lived in Poland until he was killed by the Nazis (there are two different stories of how he died, one more 'romantic' than the other; no matter, he ended up with others in an unmarked grave). He published two major and amazing works, Cinnamon Shops also known as Street of Crocodiles, and The Sanitorium Under the Hourglass. This is some of the most exuberant and unique prose you'll ever encounter. It's magical surrealism, untethered, buoyant. It's so unique I struggled with it for the first 94 pages feeling like I was missing something until aha! it came together for me. That is my brain on Schulz; your mileage will vary and you'll likely fall right into the book and not want to come out again. Once I realized what, how much Schulz did here I started again on the first page and took one of the most remarkable literary journeys of my life. There are two translations. I learned that my GR friend Matthew Appleton, who recommended this book to me (can never thank you enough!) and all of the others whose reviews I savored read a different translation than I did. Mine, by Madeline Levine, is from 2018 and done in cooperation with Polish scholars and the few background materials that exist on Schulz. I won't go into it here but each has its beauty and assets. Levine's being newer and focused more on Schulz's literary techniques including alliteration is said to be definitive. From what I've read each is a win for different reasons and I would very much like to read the other sometime. The edition I have includes the only other two stories that survive. There is talk he gave his work to someone and to this day there is someone searching but it's likely lost to posterity. In any case the two other stories seem like practice for two in the main works and are not as beautifully written. The other editions are illustrated because he was a visual artist as well. This one isn't. At first I didn't even know he illustrated the work and did quite a bit more drawing, murals -- the writing is so remarkably visual, descriptive, ebullient. Everything in Cinnamon Shops and The Sanitorium Under the Hourglass everything is animate: pots and pans fly out of attics in the town and then the attics fly too. The lush fabrics in the father's store move in descriptions that have me resisting superlatives but really, this is so special. The father turns into a cockroach (Schulz translated Kafka into Polish), a crab, a stuffed condor; he is dead, alive, in-between. Birds take up residence in the apartment and take flight, the prose takes flight. There are themes and echoes, some of it seems so free of literary constraint but he was always completely in control. It's word-perfect. It's profound. I'm in awe of his work. He must speak for himself now (through Madeline Levine). Some of it is so beautiful I cried. In this passage the protagonist is looking through his friend's stamp album. It's all he, or Schulz, would see of these places and it is so very -- so so very: from Spring, part of The Sanitorium Under the Hourglass: "In May, there were days that were pink like Egypt. In the market square radiance poured out, rippling, from every border. In the sky, the pile of summer clouds knelt, all fleecy, beneath fissures of radiance, volcanic, vividly outlined, and—Barbados, Labrador, Trinidad—everything passed into red as if seen through ruby-colored spectacles, and through those two, three pulses, through growing darkness, through the red eclipse of blood pounding against the head, the great corvette of Guyana sailed across the entire sky, exploding with all its sails. Bulging, it glided along, its canvas snorting, towed cumbersomely amid its extended lines and the clamor of the towboats, through commotions of seagulls and the red radiance of the sea. Then the immense, jumbled rigging of ropes, ladders, and poles rose up to the entire sky and expanded immensely in breadth and, booming on high with its unfurled canvas the manifold, many-storied aerial spectacle of sails, yards and clew lines opened out, while in the hatches small, agile Negro boys appeared for a moment and then scattered in that canvas labyrinth, disappearing among the signs and figures of the fantastic sky of the tropics. "Then the scene changes, and in the sky, in the massifs of clouds, as many as three pink eclipses were coming to a climax at the same time, glowing lava was smoking, outlining with a luminous line the threatening contours of the clouds, and—Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica—the core of the world was moving into the depths, growing more and more vividly, making its way to the heart, and suddenly the pure essence of these days poured out: the murmuring oceanicity of the tropics, of archipelagic azures, of happy brooks and whirlpools, and equatorial salty monsoons. With the stamp album in my hand I read the spring. Was it not a great commentary of the times, a grammar book of its days and nights? That spring declined through all the Colombias, Costa Ricas, and Venezuelas, for what, in essence, are Mexico and Ecuador and Sierra Leone if not some kind of ingenious nostrum, some intensification of the taste of the world, some extreme, refined finality, a blind alley of aroma into which the world rushes in its quests, testing and practicing on every keyboard? The main thing, let us not forget—like Alexander the Great—is that no Mexico is the ultimate one, that it is a transitional point that the world passes by, that beyond every Mexico a new Mexico opens up, even more vivid, hypercolorful, and hyperaromatic."

  4. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    These stories are a fabulous blend of romantic animism partaking of all the senses, fantastical tall tales, and wacky philosophies, all usually rendered from a precocious child’s perspective. His writing is distinctive and unique, but I appreciate how others reach for some kind of hybrid of Kafka, Calvino, and Borges to forge a comparative description. And I have no trouble imagining likely influences on the ornate gothic fantasies of Lovecraft, the fractured fairy tales of Angela Carter, and th These stories are a fabulous blend of romantic animism partaking of all the senses, fantastical tall tales, and wacky philosophies, all usually rendered from a precocious child’s perspective. His writing is distinctive and unique, but I appreciate how others reach for some kind of hybrid of Kafka, Calvino, and Borges to forge a comparative description. And I have no trouble imagining likely influences on the ornate gothic fantasies of Lovecraft, the fractured fairy tales of Angela Carter, and the alternative realities of China Mieville. I was already sensitized to the wonders of Schulz from references to his “Street of Crocodiles” in Nicole Kraus’ “History of Love” and an epigram from it in Mieville’s “The City and the City,” but it took a wonderful review from Goodreads’ friend Fionnuala to really make me hunger to read this author. Her extra attention to his eerie and comic drawings is definitely worth a side trip or revisit : The Street of Crocodiles and Other Stories. My sense of the collection is best described in this late 19th century drawing by Heinrich Kley: The author was a Polish-speaking Jew who lived his whole life in a small town in the Galicia region formerly of the Polish Kingdom, then of the Austrian Empire, and then, after 1939, Ukraine. He worked as a school teacher and illustrator and took up writing as an extension of skills developed as a storyteller to tame his unruly students. He published but two slim volumes of stories in a life cut short by getting gunned down in the street by a Nazi in 1942, supposedly over a difference with another officer who kept him out of the local ghetto roundup for the camps in exchange for painting him a mural (see David Grossman’s Age of Genius: The Legend of Bruno Schulz, The New Yorker, 2009). This edition of his work is a complete set of his collected stories and a few other pieces in a new translation by Univ. of North Carolina professor Medline Levine, who has previously tackled Czeslaw Milosz and two other Polish writers. This volume lacks the illustrations available in earlier editions of his work. Schulz tales often feature an imaginative boy growing up in this small town with parents who ran a cloth store on the floor below their apartment, a family which resembles that of the author’s. The father Jakub inspires the boy with his odd hobbies and obsessions with alternative visions of reality. The boom and bust of his business often leans to the latter, so the family is often close to poverty. But the boy has the world of books and the creative outlet of fantasy play with his friends in the neighborhood. In the face of boring schoolwork and the grim, gray weather of fall and winter, young Bruno finds escape by applying his fertile imagination to everything he experiences. Windstorms can come off as monstrously malevolent or apocalyptic in nature. The advance of nightfall in seasons of short days can come off as an invasion like an epidemic of death: The pestilence of dusk spread everywhere treacherously and poisonously, moved from one thing to another, and whatever it touched decayed instantly, turned black, disintegrated into rotten wood. People fled from the dusk in quiet panic and suddenly leprosy was catching up with them, spilling onto their foreheads as a dark rash; they lost their faces, which fell off in great, shapeless patches …. The mad dance of spring can be a delight to the boy, but sometimes its riot and pansexuality seems ominously out of control. The family garden has one end open to the sun and “full of the milk of the heavens and the airs”, while at the other, darker end: it turned surly and careless, letting itself go wild and unkempt, grew fierce with nettles, bustled with thistles, turned mangy with all sort of weeds … There it was no longer an orchard but a paroxysm of madness, an explosion of fury, a cynical shamelessness and debauchery. There, completely out of control, the barren burdock cabbage heads proliferated, opening the floodgates of their poison—enormous witches, disrobing in broad daylight, shedding their ample skirts, flinging them off one after another, until their puffed-up, rustling, tattered rags buried under themselves with their frantic layers the rambunctious bastard tribe. Notice his technique of piling on one metaphor after another until your brain brims over trying to hold onto the vision. I got a lot of pleasure from the similar way Schulz elaborates some of the boy’s fantasies one step at a time until, like with a rollercoaster, you go over the top into absurdity. For example, the boy tries to construct a conception of the world through study of his friend Rudolph’s stamp collection: Dark, ardent, full of festering love, I took in a parade of creation, marching land, shining processions that I saw in intervals through purple eclipses, deafened by the blows of the blood beating in my heart in time to this universal march of all nations. He wonders about the nobility and refinement of the mind of Franz Josef I, Emperor of Austria-Hungary, basks in the exotic colors of the flora and fauna in stamps from tropical paradises, and imagines intrigue behind the emperor’s brother Maximillian getting posted to Mexico by Bonaparte as royal governor and later execution by the revolutionaries. At age 10, the boy is developing a crush on a mysterious rich girl his age, Bianka, and projects all kinds of virtue behind her apparently surly reserve. An encounter with her at a wax museum display featuring the royal brothers leads him to imagine her as a bastard child of Maximillian by a Mexican mistress and in need of a brave intervention on his part worthy of Victor Hugo. I had lots of fun with this ornate tale whipped up out of the boy’s and Schulz’s fantasies. The several tales about the obsessions of boy’s father Jakub were the source of my greatest pleasure, almost Thurberesque in their little surprises and charm. His joining the fire brigade hobby leads Jakub to bringing his buddies home to hang out, and much drinking and horseplay ensues. The housekeeper Adela always finds a way to curb Jakub’s excesses, such as driving him to retreat by threatening to tickle him. In the case of his father’s hatching of a diverse collection of bird eggs and turning his attic into a bizarre aviary the boy initially gives his exuberant support. He trips out on the exotic colors and life that the birds bring to their grey lives in fall and winter. But soon his father begins compulsively to mimic his charges, such as flapping his virtual wings and croaking at the dinner table before catching himself in embarrassment. The apparent slippage of his father toward madness gets a reprieve when Adela manages to let the birds escape. Similarly, the son is captivated by his father’s forays into weird philosophy, which is described as an attempt at “the grafting of mesmerism on the body of modern physics.” Although their Jewishness is not much on display, I got the impression of the hazards of dwelling on the Kabbala and myths of golem creation in his goal for “the second generation of creatures that was to stand in open opposition to the present era. …our creations will be provisional as it were, constructed for a single use”. The boy is easily seduced by this riff of his father’s: “The Demiurge,” said my father, “had no monopoly on creation; creation is a privilege of all spirits. Matter has infinite fecundity, an inexhaustible vital force, and, at the same time, a seductive power of temptation that entices us to create forms. In the depths of matter indistinct smiles take shape, tensions are reinforced, experimental shapes solidify. All matter flows from the infinite possibilities passing through it in faint shivers. All matter flows awaiting the life-giving breath of the spirit, it overflows endlessly within itself, temps with a thousand sweet curves and the softness it hallucinates in its blind imaginings. There is no dead matter …lifelessness is only one eternal appearance behind which unknown forms of life are hiding. … He was fascinated with boundary forms, uncertain and problematic, like the ectoplasm of somnambulists, pseudomatter; the cataleptic emanation of the brain that in certain instances grew out of the mouth of a sleeping person into an entire table and filled an entire room, like a lushly expanding tissue, an astral dough on the border between body and soul. Delightful nonsense. His father’s mental reach in his conception of reviving the Age of Genius begins to look like Schulz dream behind the stories themselves, as eloquently described in the David Grossman piece mentioned above as “a period of perfect childhood, feral and filled with light, which even if it lasted for only a brief moment in a person’s life would be missed for the rest of his years”. In Jakub’s language: Here occurs the phenomenon of representation and vicarious life. Some event, perhaps minor and modest with regard to its provenance and its own means, may, when brought close to the eye, reveal in its interior an infinite, radiant perspective thanks to the higher being attempting to express itself and fiercely blazing within it. And so we will gather those allusions, those earthly approximations, those stations and stages on the roads of our life, like the shards of a shattered mirror. We will gather piece by piece that which is whole and indivisible, our great age, the age of genius of our life. Even at a toddler age the son suspects his father is keeping from his purview a special book, “The Book”, which contains the secrets of “magnificence beyond reckoning.” He finds at one point the remnants of a catalog of fashion, huckster schemes, and miraculous medical schemes and treatments which he believes to be fragments of this book. This frame of view leads him in his decoding efforts to quite a few odd and touching inferences in the form of life lessons and perspectives on the reality run by adults. Things turn darker when his father’s horror of cockroaches sends him around the bend. We witness a bit of an alternative to Kafka’s Metamorphosis, where the conversion (once to a cockroach and in another piece into a crab) is rendered from the perspective of the neglectful family instead of an interior view. Quite a masterpiece of comic horror. His father’s brilliant madness achieves an apotheosis in the story with the catchy title “The Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass.” The grown-up son visits him there where it seems that one version of his father is thriving and cheating death. The doctor in change explains: The entire trick depends … on the fact that we have turned back time. …Here, your father’s death, the death that already reached him in your fatherland, has simply not taken effect. Schulz’s most well-known story, “The Street of Crocodiles,” was not a favorite for me. It’s an extended conception of a large city with a quarter taken over by rampant American-style commercialism and corruption. It appears rather featureless on maps and contains streets somehow devoid of most color (which I didn’t get given an expectation of crass advertising). Those who wander there at first experience a special freedom, but eventually the unreal logic of the place sinks in with a Twilight Zone gothcha: ...the fatal flaw in this quarter is that nothing in it is ever realized, nothing reaches its definitivum, all movements that are initiated are exhausted prematurely and cannot proceed beyond a certain dead end. …The Street of Crocodiles was our city’s concession to modernity and metropolitan depravity. Over 90% of the collection was outstanding to me, so I urge most readers to give this master a chance to spin your head around. The book was provided for review by the publisher through the Netgalley program. Self portrait

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jack Tripper

    Listen: "And while the children's games became increasingly noisier and more complicated, while the city's flushes darkened into purple, the whole world suddenly began to wilt and blacken and exude an uncertain dusk which contaminated everything. Treacherous and poisonous, the plague of dusk spread, passed from one object to another, and everything it touched became black and rotten and scattered into dust. People fled before it in silent panic, but the disease always caught up with them and spre Listen: "And while the children's games became increasingly noisier and more complicated, while the city's flushes darkened into purple, the whole world suddenly began to wilt and blacken and exude an uncertain dusk which contaminated everything. Treacherous and poisonous, the plague of dusk spread, passed from one object to another, and everything it touched became black and rotten and scattered into dust. People fled before it in silent panic, but the disease always caught up with them and spread in a dark rash on their foreheads. Their faces disappeared under large, shapeless spots. They continued on their way, now featureless, without eyes, shedding as they walked one mask after another, so that the dusk became filled with the discarded larvae dropped in their flight." --from "The Night of the Great Season" That's Bruno Schulz's description of nightfall. Brilliant. Normally I'm not one who looks for fancy prose in my fiction, though I am of course capable of appreciating it. I'm more interested in story. And in weird fiction, I'm interested in that otherworldly frisson I experience when reality and unreality come together for brief moments. With Schulz, his prose is just as much a catalyst into his fantastical worlds as the "story." In his tales, it's not night outside the window, but "black night, saturated with dreams and complications." A shop's interior can slowly transform into a mountainous landscape. Inanimate objects are given human-like emotions. They can be morose, contemplative, and can even whisper to each other. But not like in children's fairy tales, but more like the real world seen through the eyes of a child (possibly while on LSD). The real world, only more so. More "alive." Colors are described not in shades, but "octaves," which is fitting considering Schulz's writing has a sort of poetic quality to it. It can be hard to read at times if you're not in the proper mood, however. When I try to read these stories during the day, I can spend several minutes on each page, desperate to not miss a single clever turn of phrase. At night, it can put me to sleep if I'm not careful. But real late at night, when I'm past the point of tired and back to wide awake, only punch-drunk, then I can become fully enveloped in this world. It may still take me several minutes per page, but now it's because I have to periodically sit back in wonder and amazement at the pure genius of certain passages. Reality and fantasy (or unleashed imagination) are in constant flux here, continuously getting in each other's way. But it's not all whimsical. Some stories, such as the novelette-length "Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass," have an eerie, almost Ligottian or Kafka-esque atmosphere to them. Most of the stories deal in some way with Schulz's (or the narrator's) father. He can die in one story, then be fine in the next, only smaller. It all may seem rather nonsensical, but once you get into a groove with these tales, it all has a perfect dream logic, in a way. This book (or rather two books*) never gets old with me. I can re-read these stories countless times and they never lose their magic. Too bad Bruno Schulz's life was cut short at such a young age, as these tales may have been just a mere prelude of even greater things to come. But it's hard to imagine. 5 Stars *This Penguin classics edition contains both his first collection, The Street of Crocodiles, and his followup, Sanitorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass, the latter of which has many of Schulz's illustrations interspersed throughout, such as the one up top.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Fran

    DNF. A family of four lived in a dark, shaded apartment with wallpaper yellowed from the excessive summer heat. The dimly lit apartment, above their dressmaking business, was in a state of neglect. The father's health deteriorated as he experienced loss of his mental faculties. He conversed with himself, was often agitated and sometimes became glazed over like an automaton. The metaphors, although excellent, were not enough to help maintain my interest level in continuing to read and fairly asse DNF. A family of four lived in a dark, shaded apartment with wallpaper yellowed from the excessive summer heat. The dimly lit apartment, above their dressmaking business, was in a state of neglect. The father's health deteriorated as he experienced loss of his mental faculties. He conversed with himself, was often agitated and sometimes became glazed over like an automaton. The metaphors, although excellent, were not enough to help maintain my interest level in continuing to read and fairly assess this tome. It would be unfair to rate "Collected Stories" by Bruno Schulz, a book I did not finish. Thank you Northwestern University Press and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "Collected Stories".

  7. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    4.75 This is like nothing I’ve read before. Take Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust and Jorge Luis Borges; shake them up; rearrange the splinters into a collage of expressionism; and still this is like nothing I’ve read before. A father becomes a cockroach, a large bird, a crustacean; an aunt burns in a fit of anger into a pile of ashes. The young narrator remembers a book, the Book of all Books, from when he was even younger and despairs at his family’s cavalier attitude when he discovers its fate. A pos 4.75 This is like nothing I’ve read before. Take Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust and Jorge Luis Borges; shake them up; rearrange the splinters into a collage of expressionism; and still this is like nothing I’ve read before. A father becomes a cockroach, a large bird, a crustacean; an aunt burns in a fit of anger into a pile of ashes. The young narrator remembers a book, the Book of all Books, from when he was even younger and despairs at his family’s cavalier attitude when he discovers its fate. A postage-stamp album is the entryway into a life of love, war, jealousy, and sacrifice. Death exists at the same time it is delayed. Mirrors don’t merely reflect: They hint at the other worlds they contain. Old men soar above the ground as if they are in a Chagall painting. The stories do not stop when the characters fall asleep, only to pick up again when they awake. Instead, the rooms of the house expand; the walls, curtains, and furniture pulsate; the minds of the sleepers reach out to one another or across the city, except when they don’t. In many cases the active sleeping is the eventful climax of a story. Above all, it is the language that delights. Within an elegant structure of sentences, the imagery invokes all the senses so plentifully that every yellow horizon, every crack between buildings, every single thing, is alive. To quote the old-age pensioner: It is part of my existence to be the parasite of metaphors, so easily am I carried away by the first simile that comes along. Having been carried away, I have to find my difficult way back, and slowly return to my senses. Always with full use of his senses, Schulz may at times drop the similes, but never the metaphors.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Hugh

    This book has been waiting on my shelf for nearly a year, and in retrospect reading two thirds of it in a day was probably a bad idea, as it is dense, allusive and sometimes difficult to follow. For all that, it has moments of brilliance that made me understand why Schulz is revered in Poland, not least by Olga Tokarczuk, author of the wonderful Flights. Schulz was a Polish Jew shot by the Nazis in 1941. His hometown Drohobycz has a complicated history and a mixed population - in Schulz's lifetim This book has been waiting on my shelf for nearly a year, and in retrospect reading two thirds of it in a day was probably a bad idea, as it is dense, allusive and sometimes difficult to follow. For all that, it has moments of brilliance that made me understand why Schulz is revered in Poland, not least by Olga Tokarczuk, author of the wonderful Flights. Schulz was a Polish Jew shot by the Nazis in 1941. His hometown Drohobycz has a complicated history and a mixed population - in Schulz's lifetime it moved from the Austro-Hungarian empire to independent Poland to Russian and then German occupation, since then it has become part of Western Ukraine via the USSR. This collection brings together his two published collections of fiction and three other stories. Many of the stories concern his alter ego Joseph, who lives with his parents in a rambling apartment in the same building as his father's tailors' shop. The father is something of a dreamer, and in Schulz's surreal dreamworld undergoes Kafkaesque transformations into insects (so it didn't surprise me that Schulz translated Kafka into Polish) and several deaths. The servant girl Adela plays a part in many of the stories and seems to have more influence in the household than the mother. The stories are full of symbolism, allusions and surreal dream logic, and I enjoyed the wildest flights of fancy most. I suspect that this is a book that would reveal more on rereading.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Katia N

    "My essence is parasite feeding on metaphors - the fact is I let myself be caught so easily by the first appropriate metaphor. Then flying very far, I have to use all my strength to struggle my way back, slowly returning to my present conscience." Bruno Schulz "My essence is parasite feeding on metaphors - the fact is I let myself be caught so easily by the first appropriate metaphor. Then flying very far, I have to use all my strength to struggle my way back, slowly returning to my present conscience." Bruno Schulz

  10. 4 out of 5

    Geoff

    Just intermittently rereading one of my absolute favorites... if you haven't read this collection (which includes Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass) do yourself a favor and read one of the great books. Schulz's sketches are equally great. Here is a lovely website dedicated to his art & writing: http://www.brunoschulzart.org/ ...and if you don't know Schulz's fate, read his wiki-biography or whatever, but be prepared for some genuine 20th century tragedy. The first recorded Polish sentence Just intermittently rereading one of my absolute favorites... if you haven't read this collection (which includes Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass) do yourself a favor and read one of the great books. Schulz's sketches are equally great. Here is a lovely website dedicated to his art & writing: http://www.brunoschulzart.org/ ...and if you don't know Schulz's fate, read his wiki-biography or whatever, but be prepared for some genuine 20th century tragedy. The first recorded Polish sentence translates to something like "Let me grind, and you take a rest"... prophetic seeing the way the country was epically ground into the earth by the forces of history. But when you look at the astounding output of literature and art that survived and still today is finding a growing audience(Milosz, Gombrowicz, Wat, Herbert, Stanislaw Lem, Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, Szymborska, Jerzy Pilch, on & on), it is just another affirmation of the true heroism of the artist, and the life-sustaining nature of creative works.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nate D

    Even in this volume's overture, "August", an insatiable suction into the hallucinatory blind-bright swarming-dark fetid verdant depths of summer, even then at the very start the sheer overcrowded prose-intensity of this "Polish Kafka" seemed to be surpassing anything I'd encountered from the primary Czech Kafka. And then it just goes from there, and goes and goes, through automatons and comets, labyrinths and stork-swarms. I've seen this sort of reeling mythic recollection attempted many times, Even in this volume's overture, "August", an insatiable suction into the hallucinatory blind-bright swarming-dark fetid verdant depths of summer, even then at the very start the sheer overcrowded prose-intensity of this "Polish Kafka" seemed to be surpassing anything I'd encountered from the primary Czech Kafka. And then it just goes from there, and goes and goes, through automatons and comets, labyrinths and stork-swarms. I've seen this sort of reeling mythic recollection attempted many times, but never so purely, so vividly, so hauntingly. This is astounding writing. Some quotes from the first bit, which is basically all one notable quote of dimly perfect fever-nostalgia at the hidden cusp of adolescence*: The dark second-floor appartment of the house in Market Square was shot through each day by the naked heat of summer: the silence of the shimmering streaks of air, the squares of brightness dreaming their intense dreams on the floor; the sound of a barrel organ rising from the deepest golden vein of day; two or three bars of a chorus, played on a distant piano over and over again, melting in the sun on the white pavement, lost in the fire of high noon. (p.3) But on the other side of the fence, behind that jungle of summer in which the stupidity of weeds reigned unchecked, there was a rubbish heap on which thistles grew in wild profusion. No one knew that there, on that refuse dump, the month of August had chosen to hold that year its pagan orgies. There pushed against the fence and hidden by the elders, stood the bed of the half-wit girl, Touya, as we all called her. On a heap of discarded junk of old saucepans, abandoned single shoes, and chunks of plaster, stood a bed, painted green, propped up on two bricks where one leg was missing. The air over that midden, wild with the heat, cut through by the lightning of shiny horseflies, driven mad by the sun, crackled as if filled with invisible rattles, exciting one to a frenzy. (p.6) In a straw-filled chest lay the foolish Maria, white as a wafer and motionless like a glove from which a hand had been withdrawn. And, as if taking advantage of her sleep, the silence talked, the yellow, bright, evil silence delivered its monolgue, argued, and loudly spoke its vulgar maniacal soliloquy. Maria's time -- the time imprisoned in her soul -- had left her and -- terribly real -- filled the room, vociferous and hellish in the bright silence of the morning, rising from the noisy mill of the clock like a cloud of bad flour, powdery flour, the stupid flour of madmen. (p.7) This is a review of just the stories first published as Street of Crocodiles; though I look forward to continuing shortly with his only other published book, also published here, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass. *do you ever find yourself trying to describe something in a pale shadow of its own terms? I can barely help it. Forgive my critical excesses here, they seem to be the irresistible aftereffect of a brush with Schulz's words.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    As someone who lived through the most turbulent times of the 20th Century, Bruno Schulz had a wealth of nightmare experiences to inform his writing. Yet he chose not to directly address contemporary horrors, instead creating a magical fictionalised world based on his hometown. His works are surreal and for me, at least, deeply unsettling. There's something about these simple stories taken to the extremes of wild imagination that leave me feeling off kilter, like I just saw through a doorway into As someone who lived through the most turbulent times of the 20th Century, Bruno Schulz had a wealth of nightmare experiences to inform his writing. Yet he chose not to directly address contemporary horrors, instead creating a magical fictionalised world based on his hometown. His works are surreal and for me, at least, deeply unsettling. There's something about these simple stories taken to the extremes of wild imagination that leave me feeling off kilter, like I just saw through a doorway into another world, like ours but not. Knowing that Schulz was ultimately shot dead by a Nazi in 1942 walking back to his forced home in the Drohobycz Ghetto with a loaf of bread, adds a further element of unreality, his untimely murder representing the absolute antithesis of what our world should be like. Schulz's words and imagery build and build in what feels like an unstoppable, tumbling wave, snatching everything in its path. But there's no other side, no crash, no release of pressure. Instead, the picture switches to something new and the tide comes in again. It's jagged and often list like, with an underlying musicality that makes you listen to yourself reading it, even if that's only in your own head. The book is hard going- Schulz's style is so dense, so layered, that the mind becomes lost in the constructed imagery and you find yourself reading the same section over and over again to see if you can discover the most significant meaning, often finding that each piece of information is offered as being equally as important as the last. I don't know any Polish so the only point I can make about the translation is that Madeline Levine has effectively maintained the flow and connectivity in stories that are wandering and evocative. This is not a book to relax into, but anyone who enjoys Kafka will certainly find something here to love. ARC via Netgalley

  13. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    "Today those remote dreams come back, and not without reason. The possibility suggests itself that no dreams, however absurd or senseless, are wasted in the universe. Embedded in the dream is a hunger for its own reification, a demand that imposes an obligation on reality and that grows imperceptibly into a bona fide claim, an IOU clamoring for payment. We have long since abandoned our dreams of that fortress, but here, years later, someone turns up who picks them up and takes them seriously, so "Today those remote dreams come back, and not without reason. The possibility suggests itself that no dreams, however absurd or senseless, are wasted in the universe. Embedded in the dream is a hunger for its own reification, a demand that imposes an obligation on reality and that grows imperceptibly into a bona fide claim, an IOU clamoring for payment. We have long since abandoned our dreams of that fortress, but here, years later, someone turns up who picks them up and takes them seriously, someone ingenuous and true of heart who understood them literally, took them for coin of the realm, and treated them as things that were plain, unproblematic. I have seen this person, I have spoken with him." (320) 5 stars for Cinnamon Shops (The Street of Crocodiles), 3 stars for the rest. In the justly celebrated Crocodiles, the evocation of a fabulist somnolence is of the highest order. I really can't say more or less. I have grown into someone less ingenuous, (though I hope not less true of heart) and so felt the textured-pavers-musical-notation as night writing, obscuring symbols. Schulz's later stuff, which was actually written first, seems less polished by contrast, yet is certainly worth reading, if even as a process of grieving for what might have been. Sum=fever dream I relish in retrospect.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Will

    Even though I found The Street of Crocodiles nearly impossible when I first read it, I now find myself thinking of this book often. As we enter my favorite season, the target of Schulz's fevered obsession, I can no longer think of summer as anything other than a season of torpor. Slowly curling vines and dense, overripe underbrush pair with images of Schulz's father's many metamorphoses and descent into madness. His words haunt my daydreams. As I was walking through the forest near my parents' h Even though I found The Street of Crocodiles nearly impossible when I first read it, I now find myself thinking of this book often. As we enter my favorite season, the target of Schulz's fevered obsession, I can no longer think of summer as anything other than a season of torpor. Slowly curling vines and dense, overripe underbrush pair with images of Schulz's father's many metamorphoses and descent into madness. His words haunt my daydreams. As I was walking through the forest near my parents' home, I happened upon an abandoned building. Sitting here, the air still warm from the sun already set, my memories of the crumbling house surrounded in vines triggered my memory of Schulz's summers: decaying overabundance, imposing, mysterious buildings, a sense of foreboding. I hope this overripe summer continues to spark memories of this remarkable book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tristan

    “On Saturday afternoons I used to go for a walk with my mother. From the dusk of the hallway, we stepped at once into the brightness of the day. The passerby, bathed in melting gold, had their eyes half-closed against the glare, as if they were drenched with honey, upper lips were drawn back, exposing the teeth. Everyone in this golden day wore that grimace of heat–as if the sun had forced his worshippers to wear identical masks of gold. The old and the young, women and children, greeted each ot “On Saturday afternoons I used to go for a walk with my mother. From the dusk of the hallway, we stepped at once into the brightness of the day. The passerby, bathed in melting gold, had their eyes half-closed against the glare, as if they were drenched with honey, upper lips were drawn back, exposing the teeth. Everyone in this golden day wore that grimace of heat–as if the sun had forced his worshippers to wear identical masks of gold. The old and the young, women and children, greeted each other with these masks, painted on their faces with thick gold paint; they smiled at each other's pagan faces–the barbaric smiles of Bacchus.” A collection of Polish writer and artist Bruno Schulz' complete surviving fiction (two volumes, for which he provided his own illustrations). Sadly, a large portion of his work and correspondence (among which what was to be his masterpiece "The Messiah") has been declared lost since his execution by the Gestapo in 1942. What we do have however, is something rather wonderful. Schulz' rich, lyrical, florid prose gives shape to a half-real, half-imagined childhood, imbued with a strong flavour of the fantastic and absurd. Schulz draws from various creation myths, legends and figures from religion, mythology and literature to craft a dreamworld that is wholly unique. Transformation, chaos, a sudden change from reality to unreality are frequently recurring themes. Strong associations with Kafka and Borges crop up. His debut, the novella "The Street of Crocodiles" (1933) is my favourite, and it's certainly narrative-wise the more consistent one of the two. Just fantastic. Do read it in summer though. It will add tremendously to the experience, trust me. "Sanatorium under the Sign of the Hourglass" retains the former's exemplary prose style but doesn't quite reach the same heights as a whole. Some of the stories in it date from even before 1930, so it has a very loose, slighty uneven feel. Still very much worth it though, when you're in the right frame of mind. With Schulz, I've learned it is best to just let the words flow over you, let him entrance you. Disregard any desire or need for plot. If you're fine with this, do seek it out.

  16. 5 out of 5

    peg

    I became aware of Bruno Schultz while reading The Messiah of Stokholm by Cynthia Ozik and decided to read the works of this seemingly obscure author. Schultz's work contains some of the most beautiful prose I have ever read. I don't understand why this author is not more widely known. I read it slowly, savoring the language and enjoying the stories as told by this exceptional Jewish holocaust victim. Thank goodness for writers like Cynthia Ozik whose goal it is to expose great but little-known a I became aware of Bruno Schultz while reading The Messiah of Stokholm by Cynthia Ozik and decided to read the works of this seemingly obscure author. Schultz's work contains some of the most beautiful prose I have ever read. I don't understand why this author is not more widely known. I read it slowly, savoring the language and enjoying the stories as told by this exceptional Jewish holocaust victim. Thank goodness for writers like Cynthia Ozik whose goal it is to expose great but little-known authors!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Third time reading, first time with the new translation which I would certainly recommend over the old. As always some of the stories (generally those without the Father in) don’t particularly do much for me, but the entirety of Crocodiles in particular (esp if you see it as essentially a novel) is just breathtaking.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Szplug

    (This review is only for The Street of Crocodiles - the remaining four stories will be added when read.) Schulz has penned an utterly gorgeous collection of disjointed set pieces here, placed in his native Galician city in a chromagnostic variation of the world, one wherein colour and sensation come alive and stain organic beings with their prismatic hues; where inanimate objects, especially home furnishings like wallpaper and cupboards, doors and closets, have been soaked with the memories of li (This review is only for The Street of Crocodiles - the remaining four stories will be added when read.) Schulz has penned an utterly gorgeous collection of disjointed set pieces here, placed in his native Galician city in a chromagnostic variation of the world, one wherein colour and sensation come alive and stain organic beings with their prismatic hues; where inanimate objects, especially home furnishings like wallpaper and cupboards, doors and closets, have been soaked with the memories of life that once existed both around them and within them: the former human ghosts of rendered actions, the latter vibrations set off by the infinite varieties of life inherent to all matter. The magical flush and saturating the everyday, a world guided by the laws of dream, inchoate and astounding, of papier-mâché trains and alluringly stockinged salesgirls, of wicked desire constrained by impish smiles and coy glances, of family members who blend into the scenery and golem servants who silently direct, whose environ-modeling moods and forms change daily like a routinely shuffled deck of cards; a world wherein an apocalyptic and fetal-positioned anthropomorphic comet strike is avoided by having current fashion outpace the threat and thus render it irrelevant. The actual act of reading Schulz's vivid, visceral creation is one of great pleasure and marvelous mental imagery. In The Street of Crocodiles is found a surrealistic depiction of Gnostic* revelations, rainbow hues and sepia tones that shade an imagining of the wonders (and agonies) of the multiplicities of form-bearing life, a paean that serves not only as homage to the Demiurge who created us, but to the demiurge locked within our souls, the creative spirit that knows the rituals and words to access matter-moulding energies, but has forgotten these incantations in the machine-tool, automotive world that hatches products in lieu of exiled tribes of chromatic birds, belches forth charcoal smoke into a once nebulae-dancing and mathematically shimmering sky. In a tireless, wide-awake world, how would it be possible to believe your father had transformed himself into a cockroach, or now lived within the eyeless, Buddha-serene condor stuffed and perched atop a living room shelf? I would have preferred a somewhat more contained novel, a touch more overall cohesiveness to the chapter-length stories conjoined within, as I feel that Schulz might have achieved something truly unique and mind-blowing if he had just tightened a few bolts here and there - though I'll still happily take that which he put to the page in its brief-but-lush glory for us all to enjoy. * Victoria Nelson persuasively makes the argument that Schulz has crafted his tale within a Hermetic Gnostic framework, as it is all matter - organic and inorganic - that is trapped within the cosmos and alienated from the divine spirit, rather than merely humanity's pneuma. So there.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Paul Fulcher

    Duplicate streets, doppelganger streets, lying and deceptive streets, so to speak, reveal themselves in the depths of the city. from The Cinnamon Shops Fans of China Mieville's The City and The City (I'm not one! - see https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) will recognise that quote, in a slightly different translation by John Curran Davis, as the epigraph and perhaps the inspiration of that novel. And Mieville joins a long list of authors with an acknowledged debt to Bruno Schulz in their work, Duplicate streets, doppelganger streets, lying and deceptive streets, so to speak, reveal themselves in the depths of the city. from The Cinnamon Shops Fans of China Mieville's The City and The City (I'm not one! - see https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) will recognise that quote, in a slightly different translation by John Curran Davis, as the epigraph and perhaps the inspiration of that novel. And Mieville joins a long list of authors with an acknowledged debt to Bruno Schulz in their work, borrowing quotations, characters, aspects of his life (in addition to the undoubted many on whom his influence is less explicitly noted) such as: - 2017 MBI winning David Grossman - whose See Under: Love is based around the story of Schulz's death (under the protection of one Gestapo officer in occupied Poland, he was shot in the street by a rival officer), except in his novel the narrator helps him escape his fate by turning him into a salmom - the legendary Roberto Bolaño: the narrator of his Distant Star reads Schulz's work during the story - Booker of Booker winning Salman Rushdie, whose Moor's Last Sigh recreates Schulz's Street of Crocodiles but in Andalucia: I felt as if I were in some sort of interregnum, in some timeless zone under the sign of an hourglass in which the sand stood motionless, or a clepsydra whose quicksilver had ceased to flow. […] I wandered down sausage-festooned streets of bakeries and cinnamon shops, smelling, instead, the sweet scents of meat and pastries and fresh-baked bread, and surrendered myself to the cryptic laws of the town. (Rushdie: The Moor's Last Sigh) - Danilo Kiš whose "family trilogy" owes a large debt to Schulz (“Schulz is my God” he told John Updike): e.g. the title of the last of the trilogy Hourglass rather echoes Schulz's Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass and his Treatise on the Potato therein Schulz' Treatise on Tailors' Dummies - Jonathan Safran Foer whose Tree of Codes is formed from cutting up his favourite book of all - Schulz's Street of Crocodiles (the words Tree of Codes can be made from a subset of the letters in Street of Crocodiles) as well as others such as Cynthia Ozick (The Messiah of Stockholm), Philip Roth (the Czech author in The Prague Orgy is essentially Schulz) and Nicole Krauss (The History of Love). (see http://jewishquarterly.org/2011/06/ap... for a more detailed survey) Several of those books are based on the legend of Schulz's lost work, The Messiah, a work some scholars believe perhaps never existed. But what we have hear is the work that Schulz did complete in his brief lifetime - the two story collections The Cinnamon Streets & Other Stories (the original English language publisher chose to present it under the title of another story, The Street of Crocodiles, against the translator's wishes) and Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass, as well as some miscellania. The lazy reviewers guide to Bruno Schulz would be Witold Gombrowicz meets Franz Kafka, and it is not hard to apparently see the influence of the latter, particularly in The Cinnamon Shops collection: Many of the stories concern his increasingly eccentric father, who first develops a mania for birds which starts with collecting and incubating rare eggs, but ends with him taking on avian-like characteristics himself, then becomes obsessed with cockroaches, again starting to resemble one himself (my father was turning into a cockroach). Querying his father's absence, the narrator asks his mother whether his father is now one of the cockroaches in the house, or perhaps instead the stuffed condor, the last remnant of his avian obsession, although his mother retorts: I already told you that father is travelling about the country as a travelling salesman. Or in the labyrinth corridors of the family home, rooms that disappear or come literally alive, and also the confusion of the city's streets (see the opening quotes) or houses: Having entered the wrong vestibule and the wrong stairwell, one usually wound up in a veritable labyrinth of unfamiliar apartments and passageways, unexpected exits into unfamiliar courtyards, and one forgot the original goal of the expedition, until, many days later, while returning on some grey dawn from the uncharted territories of strange, matted adventures, one remembered amid pangs of conscience one's family home. But to spoil the story, while Schulz was to translate Kafka into Polish, he apparently only read Kafka after he was sent a copy to review following the publication of The Cinnamon Shops. One can instead perhaps, equally lazily, suggest they drew on the same (post) Austro-Hungarian empire world of bureaucracy breaking down and mitteleuropean melancholia. The reality is that Schulz has a surreal style all of his own - one that I can admire sometimes more than appreciate. The narrator's of Distant Star (see above) sums the effect up well: “The words went scuttling past like beetles, busy at incomprehensible tasks.” I read Schulz's works in 2004, and again a few years later. The reason for revisiting them now is the publication of a new translation by Madeline Levine, the original works having been brought into English in the 1960-1970s by Celina Wieniewska. I'm not, as a rule, a massive fan of retranslations of classic works. There is far too much great but untranslated literature that would better command an enthusiastic translator's attention, and much retranslation does seem to be nitpicking with the original - the occasional case where the original was badly flawed tends to be the exception rather than the rule. Here I was pleased to see that Levine praises the 'undeniable magic of Wieniewska's English version.' She justifies retranslation generally on the grounds that "the richer the original, the more interpretations it can sustain. Translation is both a scholarly art and a performance,' which is fair enough but still leaves my concern with efficient use of translation resources. Specifically, she argues that while her predecessor 'intended to convey the visual images and bizarre events that distinguish Schulz's stories,' she did this by 'taming his prose.' Levine's aim is to 'get closer to the texture of Schulz's prose by stretching English syntax to make it accommodate the sinousity of Schulz's longer sentences rather than reigning them in,' and also to closer mirror Schulz's repetition and alliteration and the use, as much as possible, of the prefix dis- (mirroring an equivalent Polish term). I must admit I struggled, comparing the translations side by side, to detect such a significant difference, other perhaps than Levine drawing on a richer English vocabulary. Compare for example the literally labyrinthine sentence above to Wieniewska's version. For, once you had entered the wrong doorway and set foot on the wrong staircase, you were liable to find oneself in a real labyrinth of unfamiliar apartments and balconies, and unexpected doors opening onto strange empty courtyards, and you forgot the initial object of the expedition, only to recall it days later after numerous strange and complicated adventures, on regaining the family home in the grey light of dawn. See this for a further discussion: https://www.asymptotejournal.com/blog... And see also Curran Davis on the reason he did a retranslation http://weirdfictionreview.com/2012/01... So overall Schulz is an author one ought to read if only for his profound influence on others. This translation will likely become the new standard, but I wouldn't particularly recommend it as a vital choice over the existing one. Thanks to the publisher via Netgalley for the ARC.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Just as there is a notorious paucity of words to describe scent, so too with the total effects of prose: so here it is Schulzian. Objects, sensations, obligations, dreams, banal detritus and all their customary regimes of verbs, nouns, and adjectives are smeared, elided, osmosed. There is a coy sagacity, however, that saturates the pages; call it “flirting with the ineffable.” One feels in the fingertips the intimation of a shattering secret between the lines, as if the Name of the Father/God mu Just as there is a notorious paucity of words to describe scent, so too with the total effects of prose: so here it is Schulzian. Objects, sensations, obligations, dreams, banal detritus and all their customary regimes of verbs, nouns, and adjectives are smeared, elided, osmosed. There is a coy sagacity, however, that saturates the pages; call it “flirting with the ineffable.” One feels in the fingertips the intimation of a shattering secret between the lines, as if the Name of the Father/God must only be alluded to, encircled repeatedly, metamorphosed by a clear-sighted curiosity that knows better than to touch the object of its repulsion/fascination or to utter the forbidden Name. From a certain vantage, Schulz could be seen as the literary incarnation of Walter Benjamin’s messianic-Marxoid consciousness that feels every moment to be the narrow gate through which salvation may enter. In its descriptive animism, there is no plot at all for there are no points one could isolate. Inasmuch as “character is fate,” description is action. I struggle with the tedium of relentless imagery the way one struggles to relate to the sense of dread someone else feels with regard to their dreams, a readerly feeling I noticed with some of Ducornet. But Schulz’s garish, oneiric vividness word by word demonstrates that usual descriptiveness is itself inexcusably vague, linguistically lazy, and philosophically false; what we see is not merely a field of objects “out there” but is constitutively invested with our own subjective errata. The language is utterly, irrevocably free, or if you prefer, abandoned to its undercurrents, unmoored. Scene is symbolism; how could you know what any of it means until The End, while knowing we’ll never know when or where The End is because, by definition, it is The End?

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Overmark

    If Borges and Kafka had a baby, and this baby was turned into a movie it would probably look a bit like a mix of Buñuel and Marx Brothers added a splash of Woody Allan. Here everything is turned, upside down, sideways and in a few other directions. The stories are moving forward set free of time and space - childhood memories seen through a grown-up´s eyes, overanalyzed in a way that would make Jung and Freud start holding hands and exchange joyful kisses. And then we return to a totally new persp If Borges and Kafka had a baby, and this baby was turned into a movie it would probably look a bit like a mix of Buñuel and Marx Brothers added a splash of Woody Allan. Here everything is turned, upside down, sideways and in a few other directions. The stories are moving forward set free of time and space - childhood memories seen through a grown-up´s eyes, overanalyzed in a way that would make Jung and Freud start holding hands and exchange joyful kisses. And then we return to a totally new perspective, from a new starting point in time and space. The translation from the original Polish has received a lot of - I suppose, without any knowledge of Polish - well deserved praise, in the English edition the language is floating, flying, jumping and dancing in a enjoyable way. Would Bruno Schulz have been Nobel material? We will never know, eternal fame only belongs to the dead, and while the stories certainly had their moments they are easily forgotten again.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Philip Cherny

    Street of Crocodiles: This text feels so sensually evocative, my imagination seems transported into a suspended realm, a moment where all actions seem inconsequential (epochē). I immerse myself in this other world where I feel deeply nostalgic while at the same time removed at a distance, estranged from any kind of human sentiment. It’s a temporality of dreamlike reflection, getting lost at moments such as in “Pan” or in “Cinnamon Shops,” where the space segues in such a way that I forget how it Street of Crocodiles: This text feels so sensually evocative, my imagination seems transported into a suspended realm, a moment where all actions seem inconsequential (epochē). I immerse myself in this other world where I feel deeply nostalgic while at the same time removed at a distance, estranged from any kind of human sentiment. It’s a temporality of dreamlike reflection, getting lost at moments such as in “Pan” or in “Cinnamon Shops,” where the space segues in such a way that I forget how it flowed from the spaces preceding it. When I stop reading, I feel as if I’m waking from a deep slumber, turning back to “reality” so to speak. Like a dream, only a few disappointingly minuscule fragments of my reading experience stick out to me as most memorable. I could not provide an adequate recounting if I tried. But this solipsistic absorption only covers part of my reading experience. Unlike a dream, I find myself constantly referring back to the world outside the text with Schulz’s use of metaphors and allusions to other sources such as Jewish mythology and Polish paganism. Overall, a complex and intriguing work, though it requires some patience to fully enjoy: dedication to the details, the inter-textual relationships, perhaps a few re-readings. In this respect, I’m left with a sense that there is much more to ponder upon. Street of Crocodiles is a series of loosely interrelated vignettes, mostly reflections of the narrator’s past, though it sometimes strays off into the other areas of the diegesis not clearly observed by the narrator. It sometimes seems ambiguous what part of his life he’s describing, though it really does not matter. The narrative flows in a wandering somnambulant manner, with not much of a “plot” where events (actions, interactions, reactions, etc.) unfold, but rather a series of poetic descriptions that give the reader a sense of the space. The time is overwhelmingly kairotic, though periodically certain indicators of life’s passage suggest an underlying chronological timeline (the last two sections, “The Night of the Great Season” and “The Comet” actually begin with references to chronology)—most notably, the way the father figures into the narrative: in “Visitation,” father slowly falls into physical illness, suffering from madness and eventually becomes the eccentric, antisocial, artistic genius whose hidden secrets remain forever shrouded from the rest of society. By the time we read “Cockroaches” we find the father no longer living, but only after a long series of vignettes that hardly mention him, almost as if his passing is merely an afterthought. But then the narrative quickly sinks back into memories of the father. The narrator occasionally expresses his mixture of admiration, fascination, and disappointment in his neglectful father. Though the father stands as perhaps the most pronounced character in the book, he still remains more of a backdrop than a character. The real focal point in Street of Crocodiles is the setting, the city of Drogobych, and the way it affects the narrator. In fact the father serves more as a protean reference point than a cohesive character: an aloof figure who suffers bouts of insanity, a storeowner slaving over mounds of paperwork (14-5, 84), a stolid condor (22, 74-5), a scuttling cockroach (74-6), an amateur ornithologist (21-3, 28-9), an alchemist or lab technician (13, 40, 77, 99), a heretic (30-40), prophet or wise man (99-111), a psychoanalyst (103-4), etcetera. Goldfarb’s introduction explains a few of the motifs recurring throughout the text, but he could have included several other major motifs, e.g. grayness, boredom, whiteness, sleep, etc. The two underlying themes in Street of Crocodiles I find most fascinating are materiality and sexuality. The personification of material objects really highlights what Goldfarb describes as the “reality asylum” or “a concentrated and heightened sense of the material of life.” My favorite example is the description of the seamstresses’ dummy: “Standing motionless in her corner, she supervised the [seamstresses’] advances and wooing as they knelt before her, fitting fragments of a dress marked with white basting thread. They waited with attention and patience on the silent idol, which was difficult to please.” (28). Material form, morphology, anthropomorphism, transformation, and deformity also frequently figure into the text. Ornithology serves as a taxonomic categorization of the body in is various manifestations of form, “displaying richness of complexity in thousand kaleidescopic possibilities, each of them brought to some curious end.” (42). The father often compares human beings to birds, “How delightful and happy is the form of existence which you ladies have chosen.” (29-30), but later it imposes a hierarchy when species of birds are viewed as “nonsense of second-rate anatomy” (93), comparable to the narrator’s disdain for the those who live in the slums—“that inferior species of human being which is born in such ephemeral communities.” (65). Mind you, detritus (“tandeta”), or the use-value of materials serves as a central concern throughout the entire text. Matter is described later as a woman (not particularly feminist, but an archetypal metaphor): “Matter has been given infinite fertility, inexhaustible vitality, and, at the same time, a seductive power of temptation which invites us to create as well. In the depth of matter, indistinct smiles are shaped, tensions build up, attempts at form appear. The whole of matter pulsates with infinite possibilities that send dull shivers through it. Waiting for life-giving breath of the spirit, it is endlessly in motion. It entices us with a thousand sweet, soft, round shapes which it blindly dreams up within itself. Deprived of all initiative, indulgently acquiescent, pliable, like a woman, submissive to every impulse, it is a territory outside any law, open to all kinds of charlatans and dilettanti, a domain of abuses and of dubious demiurgical manipulations.” (31). The characterization of matter as an enticing yet submissive substance continues to pervade throughout the rest of the book: e.g. “The chairs all had antimacassars; all the objects had submitted to the iron discipline which Adela exercised over them.” (74). It is this dominance/submission theme that brings us to the sexual aspect of the book. Viragos, demon women, “naughty schoolgirls,” and submissive men, castration, male impotence, voyeurism, are littered throughout the book: the narrator’s incessant fear of coquettish women and the way they transform men into powerless animals, the father’s quasi-sexual relationship to his domineering housekeeper Adela, who turns him into a lowly cockroach (74-6). Human sexuality is not portrayed in a positive light as and affirmation of love or social bond. It’s more the feeling one finds in a Hans Bellmer fetish “poupee”: dark, mysterious, latent sexuality lurking behind all façades of innocence, alienating, infantile, repulsion suppressing attraction. It’s the awkward discomfort one feels with prepubescent conceptions of sexuality. Always the beautiful women control the men, and the men gawk like buffoons (the father as the only exception, though his “true” relation to Adela remains ambiguous to say the least). Schulz’s narrative world is as strange, complex, confusing, intriguing, and erotically charged as his etchings and illustrations.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    The Poles like to think of Bruno Schulz as the Polish Kafka. There is more than a little justification to this. Both men were Jews born in the Austrian empire, one in Prague and the other 600 miles to the east in Drohobych near Lvow. Schulz admired Kafka greatly and translated the Trial into Polish. The atmosphere in the Street of Crocodiles is for lack of better words Kafkesque. Strange events occur with no obvious reason. Conversations are strange and at times sinister. The difference between K The Poles like to think of Bruno Schulz as the Polish Kafka. There is more than a little justification to this. Both men were Jews born in the Austrian empire, one in Prague and the other 600 miles to the east in Drohobych near Lvow. Schulz admired Kafka greatly and translated the Trial into Polish. The atmosphere in the Street of Crocodiles is for lack of better words Kafkesque. Strange events occur with no obvious reason. Conversations are strange and at times sinister. The difference between Kafka's world and the world of Schulz in the Street of Crocodiles is that with Schulz no one seems to believe there is any method to the madness. K in the Trial is convinced of his innocence and constantly demands justice. The surveyor makes endless efforts to establish contact with the Castle. In comparison, the protagonist is passive in the Street of Crocodiles. He waits for the strange figures to arrive in his family home and execute their strange actions. He does not seek to break the cycle or make contact with any higher authority who will be able to put matters right. The Street of Crocodiles is a very fascinating read for anyone interested in the Zeitgeist of Central Europe following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tim Pendry

    Here are two remarkable collections of stories from the interwar period by the increasingly admired if politically appropriated Bruno Schulz, a Galician Jew murdered by a Nazi during the occupation. The introduction is worth reading and it stops me having to deal here with the issue of cultural appropriation for political purposes - the sad fate of many dead East Europeans. Poland between the wars had a rich literary and cultural life which always was part of the European mainstream. Schulz himself Here are two remarkable collections of stories from the interwar period by the increasingly admired if politically appropriated Bruno Schulz, a Galician Jew murdered by a Nazi during the occupation. The introduction is worth reading and it stops me having to deal here with the issue of cultural appropriation for political purposes - the sad fate of many dead East Europeans. Poland between the wars had a rich literary and cultural life which always was part of the European mainstream. Schulz himself periodically reminds us of the sclerotic Austro-Hungarian background to the Galician component of this culture. But these stories are not interesting because of interwar literary ambition, the movements of the day and certainly not for the overlaying of subsequent history on his work. They are interesting for his remarkable ability to evoke altered states of consciousness. This is not the fantasy world, however, of latter day visionaries, all Ayahuasca and chemicals. Schulz offers deep introspective investigation of states of consciousness available to all but usually dismissed – the imaginative, the hypnagogic, imagined memory, dream states, fantasy … Schulz is hard to pin down (as are dreams). His is a rich and evocative language but one grounded in the detritus of the world We see his literary precursors in dialectic with an esoteric Jewish perspective on the world and an amazing ability to build narratives out of imaginative memory and dream states. He is not flawless. Sometimes, his writing is too obviously crafted for the salons and literary magazines of Warsaw. Sometimes he is a little boring. Sometimes a little rhetorical. But at his best, which is the bulk of the work, the man is a genius Whether exploring the same phenomena as Sartre did in ‘Nausea’ or Kafka did in ‘Metamorphosis' or creating half-dreamed narratives in which you lose yourself as if you were present ... or exploring family dynamics elliptically and magically. Family dynamics are not unimportant. He creates a small closed mythos from memory around the archetypal figure (to him) of an all-present absurd incomprehensible but clearly loved Father. There is a cast of minor characters who recur in different forms in a comfortable but unstable bourgeois milieu. In many ways, he might be called the fantastic poet of the middle classes in troubled times with nowhere to go but inwards as the world moves quickly around them. He is not a gloomy but a thoughtful writer. I would not even say that he is tormented – this torment is imposed on him, I think, by historical accident. He is just a man who sees the value of an imagined memory, and of fantasy and the imagination as separate but equal partners in existence. The imagination is thus not a mechanism for denial but one related to survival and to psychological development. There is a story of perfect happy wish fulfillment and one of mad, passionate adolescent love with every romantic trope thrown up to the point of heroic sacrifice. The most remarkable and anthologized of all the stories is ‘Sanatorium Under The Sign of the Hour Glass’. This particular masterpiece bears re-reading more than once because it is a dream state about death and the father that is filled with a quiet love. It is about grieving too – and about the impositions of the world and fear on the process. It is complex and beautiful. A great book like this moves neurons around. Schulz found a unique means not of expressing anxiety but of expressing a broader range of emotional undertones to ‘ordinary life’ that exist in most of us and which are always understood tangentially. The writing process is a rational one of textual compilation so literature often works against true expression of a liminal zone between consciousness and loss of consciousness. It is often presented in esoteric, magical, spiritual, neurotic, irrational or instinctual terms. Poetry, ritual, art and music have often been more effective vehicles than narrative literature. Schulz found a narrative language for that liminal state and it has influenced weird and fantasy fiction for that reason ever since. I see Ligotti’s puppet humanity fully outlined in Schulz’s tailors’ dummies. The murder of Schulz was a tragedy at many levels but the work he left behind, with his accompanying somewhat sinister and vital illustrations, show a final flowering of Middle European Symbolism. This Penguin Edition is highly recommended.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Leanna

    Another book that came up in two of my classes this semester. Bruno Schulz (1892-1942) was a Polish writer. His output was not huge (he was gunned down during World War II) and mainly consisted of two collections of short stories: "The Street of the Crocodiles" and "Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass." Both take Schulz's childhood as the focal point and both deeply reimagine it. I guess you could call Schulz's style magical realism. For example, during the course of the two collections, Another book that came up in two of my classes this semester. Bruno Schulz (1892-1942) was a Polish writer. His output was not huge (he was gunned down during World War II) and mainly consisted of two collections of short stories: "The Street of the Crocodiles" and "Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass." Both take Schulz's childhood as the focal point and both deeply reimagine it. I guess you could call Schulz's style magical realism. For example, during the course of the two collections, the Father character turns into a stuffed condor, a cockroach, a dragonfly, and a crab. During Shulz's childhood, his father, owner of a textile shop, was ill and languished for years. So in Schulz's collections, his father keeps appearing, disappearing, living, dying, and transforming. It's fascinating. Also fascinating is how Schulz stays with just one cast of characters (the avatar for his childhood self, the Mother character, the Father character, the saucy servant girl, Adela) through both story collections, revisiting again and again his childhood through fantastical metaphors, images, and dream-realities (besides the father's transformations, streets and seasons have their own personalities; an uncle turns into a bell; a crush on a schoolgirl is told through a strange lens of stampbooks and wax dummies, etc). So, I loved the obsessive focus on the domestic sphere, childhood, and family. Schulz creates huge, beautiful mythologies out of these very simple elements. What I loved most, though, was the language! Schulz's language can be lushly poetic, also very funny and insightful, and is ripe (so ripe it's practically swollen!) with metaphor. Cons--every now and then the descriptive language went on for too long. And sometimes the events of the stories were too confusing. I preferred the collection of “Street of the Crocodiles” to that of “Hour of the Sanatorium”—I found the first clearer and tighter. I'll just exerpt a few examples of the beautiful, imaginative language: describing a man sleeping: "Groping blindly in the darkness, he sank between the white mounds of cool feathers and slept as he fell, across the bed or with his head downwards, pushing deep into the softness of the pillows, as if in sleep he wanted to drill through, to explore completely, that powerful massif of feather-bedding rising out of the night. He fought in his sleep against the bed likes a bather swimming against the current, he kneaded it and moulded it with his body like an enormous bowl of dough, and woke up at dawn panting, covered with sweat, thrown up on the shores of that pile of bedding which he could not master in the nightly struggle. Half landed in the depth of unconsciousness, he still hung onto the verge of night, gasping for breath, while the bedding grew around him, swelled, and fermented—and again engulfed him in a mountain of heavy, whitish dough.” describing a sheaf of peacock feathers: “These feathers were a dangerous, frivolous element, hiding rebelliousness, like a class of naughty schoolgirls who are quiet and composed in appearance, but full of mischief when no longer watched. The eyes of those feathers never stopped staring; they made holes in the walls, winking, fluttering their eyelashes, smiling to one another, giggling and full of mirth.” “…Each crevice suddenly produced a cockroach, from every chink would shoot a crazy black zigzag of lightning.” (well, this I found just funny, and true--describing a puppy) "He had the dejected helplessness of an orphan--an inability to fill the emptiness of life between the sensational events of meals."

  26. 5 out of 5

    Xantha Page

    "Every day at the same time, accompanied by her governess, Bianca could be seen walking in the park. What can I say about Bianca, how can I describe her? I only know that she is marvelously true to herself, that she fulfills her programme completely. My heart tight with pleasure, I notice again and again how with every step, light as a dancer, she enters into her being and how with each of her movements she unconsciously hits the target. "Her walk is ordinary, without excessive grace, but its sim "Every day at the same time, accompanied by her governess, Bianca could be seen walking in the park. What can I say about Bianca, how can I describe her? I only know that she is marvelously true to herself, that she fulfills her programme completely. My heart tight with pleasure, I notice again and again how with every step, light as a dancer, she enters into her being and how with each of her movements she unconsciously hits the target. "Her walk is ordinary, without excessive grace, but its simplicity is touching, and my heart fills with gladness that Bianca can be herself so simply, without any strain or artifice. "Once she slowly lifted her eyes to me, and the seriousness of that look pierced me like an arrow. Since then, I have known that I can hide nothing from her, that she knows all my thoughts. At that moment, I put myself at her disposal, completely and without reservation. She accepted this by almost imperceptibly closing her eyes. It happened without a word, in passing, in one single look. "When I want to imagine her, I can only evoke one meaningless detail: the chapped skin on her knees, like a boy's; this is deeply touching and guides my thoughts into tantalizing regions of contradiction, into blissful antinomies. Everything else, above and below her knees, is transcendental and defies my imagination."

  27. 4 out of 5

    Randolph

    This book is either a novel, or more likely, a collection of semi-interconnected stories, some more connected than others. Joseph, his father, and sister Adela are recurring characters. In general people react with seemingly normal responses to things only to wander into surreal Shandean digressions which may or may not take the reader eventually back to "reality." Most of the action is driven by what appears to be the characters' subconscious, for lack of any other better motivation. This may b This book is either a novel, or more likely, a collection of semi-interconnected stories, some more connected than others. Joseph, his father, and sister Adela are recurring characters. In general people react with seemingly normal responses to things only to wander into surreal Shandean digressions which may or may not take the reader eventually back to "reality." Most of the action is driven by what appears to be the characters' subconscious, for lack of any other better motivation. This may be reading too much into it and the purely surreal may be what the author is primarily striving for. Many bizarre transformations also abound. At times I felt like I was a prisoner in a cross between a Luis Bunuel film and Eraserhead, not necessarily a bad thing. Images are striking and vivid and despite what I've said, cogent metaphors do pepper the text. I found this, despite the bizarre nature of the book, a rather easy read. Don't let your mind wander because the story doesn't always follow a linear path and you may find you don't know what happened a few pages ago and won't be able to reconstruct it just from the context. There is also an excellent screen adaptation of The Street of Crocodiles by the Quay Brothers.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Jane

    See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits It's only half way through March, but I am pretty confident that Collected Stories by Bruno Schulz is going to be my book of the month! I absolutely loved his rich language and gorgeously vivid descriptions, deep prose and frequently bizarre storylines. Originally written in the 1930s these stories have a sense of history about them. I could picture the unnamed town as Schulz's protagonist wends his way through its streets. Kafka is namedropp See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits It's only half way through March, but I am pretty confident that Collected Stories by Bruno Schulz is going to be my book of the month! I absolutely loved his rich language and gorgeously vivid descriptions, deep prose and frequently bizarre storylines. Originally written in the 1930s these stories have a sense of history about them. I could picture the unnamed town as Schulz's protagonist wends his way through its streets. Kafka is namedropped in the synopsis and I did notice ideas that could have been inspired by him, particularly in certain elements of Father's daily life which sometimes reminded me of The Metamorphosis. I was also reminded of the Daniil Kharms short story collection I read last year in the often absurd turns Schulz's stories take. Although each story is essentially independent, repeated themes, characters and locations made reading this book feel more to me like reading a novel than a short story collection. Schulz focuses in particular on the changing seasons, his Father character's dementia and the daily routine of maid Adela. He notices the natural world in its urban setting, giving frequent chapters over to detailed descriptions of plant life, especially wild growing weeds. He also uses repetition of particular words and phrases to great effect in linking the stories. Motifs from one tale spring up again and again to reinforce ideas and impressions. Bruno Schulz uses lots of words, writes beautifully dense prose and, to me at least, is all about atmosphere, description and character. I don't expect this book to appeal to readers who prefer action, tightly-plotted storylines and concise ideas. Instead this collection is more a slow-flowing river. There is a lot happening, but its obscured and you have to sit watching a while before you begin to move with the current. Personally I loved getting swept up and away! "Forgotten by the great day, all the herbs, flowers and weeds multiplied luxuriantly and silently, gladdened by this pause that they could sleep though outside the margin of time, on the borders of the endless day. An immense sunflower, held up on a powerful stem and sick with elephantiasis, awaited in yellow mourning dress the final, sad days of its life, sagging beneath the excess growth of its monstrous corpulence. But the naive surburban bluebells and the modest little muslin flowers stood there helpless in their starched pink and white little shirts, with no understanding of the sunflower's great tragedy." (from Collected Stories by Bruno Schulz)

  29. 4 out of 5

    Keith Chawgo

    Collected Stories is one of those collections that keep literary reviewers and prestigious literary journals buzzing with over excitement. Whether it is his collection of ‘Street of Crocodiles’ or the later collection ‘Sanatorium under the Sign of an Hourglass’, Schulz work is very well recognised within the upper brow annuals of literary fiction. Keeping this mind, I personally tend to find difficulties reading this type of work as it is supposed to be the cream of the crop and held to such a h Collected Stories is one of those collections that keep literary reviewers and prestigious literary journals buzzing with over excitement. Whether it is his collection of ‘Street of Crocodiles’ or the later collection ‘Sanatorium under the Sign of an Hourglass’, Schulz work is very well recognised within the upper brow annuals of literary fiction. Keeping this mind, I personally tend to find difficulties reading this type of work as it is supposed to be the cream of the crop and held to such a high level that often times, the work does not stand up to the praise. I can safely say that with this collection of stories and the writing of Bruno Schulz, this most definitely lives up to its reputation. Schulz’s writing style borders on extreme beauty and surrealism and he balances these to create an incredible body of work. The writing style is not short and sweet and he places his structuring, at times long winded, which to the modern novelist reader, can seem a bit out of sync but if you open your mind and let it wash over you, I think you would be presently surprise. The work is a translation from the original Polish text and at times I often wonder how much of the writing is in the style of Schulz’s writing and how much of it has been flourished with English prose. As I don’t read Polish, I looked at the stories as the way that they are written. Looking at them from this view point, there are time that the descriptive text seems to be over flourished but this really doesn’t take away from the over enjoyment of the stories found within. Overall, I would not suggest reading these in one go. This collection of stories works best reading it in parts. Read a story, walk away and read something else and you will find that each individual tale will stay ingrained within your subconscious. Your brain will be returning to them time and time again. The writing style will not be for everyone but if you are in love with the written word, there is plenty to feast your mind on. Take a chance and you will not be disappointed.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    Schulz's prose is like nothing else I've read. Every sentence is a work of art; every paragraph is a poem. It's endlessly inventive. For the first few pages, this was actually annoying--it took a while to attune to the high register of language. For the remaining 300 pages, though, it was a delight to revel in the chaotic carnival. There are no rules and boundaries in Schulz's writings; things can become people, and vice versa, and sometimes they become something blended in between. Time has no Schulz's prose is like nothing else I've read. Every sentence is a work of art; every paragraph is a poem. It's endlessly inventive. For the first few pages, this was actually annoying--it took a while to attune to the high register of language. For the remaining 300 pages, though, it was a delight to revel in the chaotic carnival. There are no rules and boundaries in Schulz's writings; things can become people, and vice versa, and sometimes they become something blended in between. Time has no dominion. A humdrum town becomes an extraordinarily magical place bursting with life and stories. Death, for example, takes many forms in this work, none of them all that familiar. The dead can become whisperings between the floorboards, waxworks, a patient in a country running on a different time, a crab scuttling around the house. Meanwhile, unfortunately, back in the obscenity of history where death is permanent, Bruno Schulz was murdered by a Gestapo officer in the "Aryan quarter" of that same humdrum town. Although novelist David Grossman makes a compelling and moving case for the idea that Schulz has continued nevertheless to sustain us: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/200...

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.