Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Bruno, My Love

We say it's hard to pick our favorite favorites when it comes to many things, be it friends, countries, or pieces of art. Despite the wealth of choice of literature available and the intense differences between many a writers, I have come to a place where I can not only appreciate, but truly adore a writer.

Bruno Schulz was a Polish Jew, born in 1892 is a small down of Drohobycz in Galicia. Apart from creating drawings and a few magnificent pieces of writing, his life mostly revolved around teaching drawing and handicraft in a small-town Polish school. He was a man of a feeble health and an almost incurable state of self-perceived inferiority and insecurity. His life was an endless conflict between providing financial support for his extended family and carving out moments of freedom in which he was most creative. His life ended in 1942, when he was shot dead by a Gestapo officer in a street of his home town.

Despite not being widely known on an international scale, Bruno Schulz is regarded as one of the greatest Polish-language stylists of the 20th century. The quotation below referring to Jacob, Bruno's father, could easily be pointed at the writer himself.

It is worth noting how, in contact with that unusual man, all things retreated, as it were, to the root of their being, rebuilt their phenomenon down to the metaphysical core — they returned to their primordial idea, only to betray it at that point and lurch into those dubious, daring and equivocal regions which I shall here succinctly call the Regions of the Great Heresy.

Descriptive to the point of transcending the nature of objects and states presented, Bruno Schulz's writings are characterised by a language of incredible depth and color. The simplicity of the prose's content is transformed, liquefied, and brought to its very essence in light of the language used to portray it.

But even further from the light there were cats. Their perfection was alarming. Locked up in the precision and meticulousness of their bodies, they knew neither deviation nor error. They sank for a moment into the depths of themselves, to the bottom of their being, then they froze in their soft fur and grew menacingly and ceremonially serious, while their eyes grew as round as moons, soaking up the view into their fiery craters. But a moment later, cast out to the edge, to their surface, they yawned in their nihility, disappointed and without illusions.

Due to his entrapment with teaching and poor health, and above all, lack of free time, the body of his most popular written work includes only two collections of short stories: The Street of Crocodiles and Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass. In 1975 a collection of Schulz's letters was published in Polish as The Book of Letters. Several works have been lost or burned, including some short stories from the early 1940s that the author had sent to be published in magazines, and his final unfinished novel The Messiah.

This works have inspired other creations such as the adaptation of The Street of Crocodiles by the Quay Brothers:

Bruno Schulz's writings and life have been described in more detail in a book by the Polish poet Jerzy Ficowski Regions of the Great Heresy. The texts of The Street of Crocodiles and Sanatorium under the Sign of the Hourglass are available here for free.

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