We convene to read from a book that can’t even settle upon its own name. We arrive as realists to a place and time where reality eludes us. I summon you to try and make sense of the nonsensical, to impose structure on that which flows like water through our hands, to explain the unexplainable.
Bruno Schulz, an art teacher and painter in Drogobych, Poland, scribed three literary works of art and then was shot dead by a Gestapo officer – because he was another officer’s tame Jewish painter. Even his death is rendered ambiguous, since he had a revolutionary nest of Poles that wanted to smuggle him to freedom. He chose what he had known all his life: a claustrophobic death in a provincial town that had claimed him and brutalized him in its cloistered grasp.
In the English-speaking West, Bruno is best known for The Cinnamon Shops (or The Street of Crocodiles), translated by Cellina Wieniewska – a work so unique it is unclassifiable as a novel, or a linked set of short stories, or a memoir, or an extended cadenza out of Bruno’s imagination. This book, if it is a book, can be described about as well as you can explain Mark Rothko’s paintings. …