I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Beyond the Laws

Beyond the Laws

Robert Looby
Collected Stories, by Bruno Schulz (trans Madeline G Levine), Northwestern University Press, 288 pp, $17.95, ISBN: 978-0810136601 Lovers of a spare prose style, not to mention tight plotting, may be disappointed by Bruno Schulz: The world lay mute, unfolding and rising somewhere above, somewhere behind and deep inside – blissfully powerless – and floated on. At times it slowed and vaguely resembled something, it branched out in trees, grafted onto the gray day a thick, glistening net of bird twittering that had been thrown over it, and moved deep into the subterranean snakelike tangle of roots, into the blind pulsing of worms and caterpillars, the muffled darkness of chernozem and clay. Born in 1892 in a part of Poland that now lies in Ukraine, Schulz’s “biography was monotonous and largely unvaried – as grey as the life of a provincial drawing teacher can be”, writes Jerzy Jarzębski in Poland’s National Library edition of Schulz’s works. Jerzy Ficowski, dedicated student and biographer of the writer, calls Schulz’s three-week trip to Paris his only international excursion, although in an earlier book he writes that Schulz spent several months studying in Vienna. Schulz also visited Stockholm, in 1936, and corresponded with the likes of Julian Tuwim, Witkacy (Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz) and Witold Gombrowicz, leading lights of 1930s Polish literature, among whose ranks he has long been counted. Nevertheless, for years he lived with the reputation of being a “modest teacher” from Drohobycz – the quintessential provincial town. Much is made of the fact that all his stories but one are set in a small town which, though he never names it, we are sure – or are assured – is his own home town. The stories are read as surreal autobiographical sketches, whose central figure is the narrator’s father, Jakub, a cloth merchant. The tales unfold in the telling; they branch out, double back, and spring offshoots in all directions. Schulz set himself free from the constraints of cause and effect and viewed time not as a straight line, but as a constituent part of space. He does not feel bound to leave things which have already happened alone. The stories do not refer to a fixed stock of events which have already happened and have now been recorded for future generations. Writing and happening interpenetrate, giving Schulz freedom to indulge in the displays of linguistic skill for which he is known. In…

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