Helen's Reviews > The Street of Crocodiles

The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz
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Apr 14, 2010

it was amazing
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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Quotes Helen Liked

Bruno Schulz
“Each of them has only one moment, a moment when it soars screaming like the phoenix, all its pages aflame. For that single moment we love them ever after, although they soon turn to ashes.”
Bruno Schulz, The Street of Crocodiles

Bruno Schulz
“Reality is as thin as paper, and betrays with all its cracks its imitative character.”
Bruno Schulz, The Street of Crocodiles

Bruno Schulz
“There open up, deep inside a city, reflected streets, streets which are double, make-believe streets. One's imagination, bewitched and misled, creates illusory maps of the apparently familiar districts, maps in which the streets have their proper places and usual names but are provided with new and fictitious configurations by the inexhaustible inventiveness of the night.”
Bruno Schulz, The Street of Crocodiles

Bruno Schulz
“Now the windows, blinded by the glare of the empty square, had fallen asleep. The balconies declared their emptiness to heaven; the open doorways smelt of coolness and wine.”
Bruno Schulz, The Street of Crocodiles


Reading Progress

02/03/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 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


message 3: by Parthiban (new)

Parthiban Sekar Wonderful review, Helen!

P.S. Ended up here, thanks to mutual friends ...


Helen Thank you, Parthiban! Ooh, which one of our friends is mutual?


Tara A beautifully written review, as beautiful as your own fiction prose. And a wonderful tribute.


Helen Awww...thank you, Tara! That means a great deal to me.


message 7: by Tara (last edited Sep 11, 2016 11:21AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tara Helen wrote: "Awww...thank you, Tara! That means a great deal to me."

You're welcome. I quoted you in my own review ;-). Could not say it better.


message 8: by Didem (new) - added it

Didem Thanks for your comment. İll read the book at the first chance


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