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The Street of Crocodiles and Other Stories by Bruno Schulz
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Jul 26, 2010

really liked it

(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.
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message 1: by Ema (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ema Wonderful review, mirroring the complicated imagery in Schulz' work. I absolutely loved his writing.


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