Helen's Reviews > The Street of Crocodiles

The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz
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Jul 12, 12

bookshelves: holocaust
Read from April 14 to July 04, 2010

My father survived World War II hiding in a bunker under the town of Drohobych, so I feel eerily connected to this man and his work.

It would be fair to call Bruno Schulz Poland's greatest twentieth century writer. This collection of stories changes the very definition of what a short story should be. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end, yes, but the writing is best described as delirious, hypnotic, dreamlike. You don't read Schulz for the plot; you read for the prose, the intensely sensual visuals, the way the words unfurl like the leaves of a magical vine. Inanimate objects struggle to come to life. Secret rooms grow strange, trapped gardens. A boy blows away with a gust of wind. His father conjures a flock of exotic birds from the pages of a picture book.

The details of his life are the stuff of legend. Bruno Schulz was a shy, frail, brilliant artist, Jewish and secular, who lived in the far eastern Polish town of Drohobych. When his father died, he took on the job of art teacher at the local high school to support his mother, sister and nephew, though he found the work both exhausting and consuming.

Drohobych was a particularly brutal place to be in the cauldron of World War II. Thousands of people were marched into the nearby forests and killed, or transported to Treblinka to be gassed. For a year, Schulz found a protector and patron in the person of Felix Landau, an art-loving Nazi whose war diary is well known. Tragically, he was shot to death around noon on November 19, 1942, at the intersection of Czaki and Mickiewicz Streets, on the eve of his planned escape.

These lushly worded stories give no warning of the conflagration that is to follow, but the reader's knowledge of Schulz's fate inescapably informs every line. Read The Street of Crocodiles if you're interested in what was lost in the fires of the Holocaust. Read it if you want to be consumed by fiction that burns like poetry. But by all means, read this book.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Aaron you write:

You don't read Schulz for the plot; you read for the prose, the intensely sensual visuals, the way the words unfurl like the leaves of a magical vine. Inanimate objects struggle to come to life. Secret rooms grow strange, trapped gardens. A boy blows away with a gust of wind. His father conjures a flock of exotic birds from the pages of a picture book.

To which I say an Everlasting Yea!

Because there really is no plots. Each story is a vignette, a portrait painted with words in the midst of a quirky (mythic?) home life. One admires how Schulz can so ably tap into this childhood frenzy. Perhaps he never left it?


message 2: by M (new)

M great review


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