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The Complete Fiction of Bruno Schultz: The Street of Crocodiles,…

by Bruno Schulz

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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258578,285 (4.2)9
Brings together Bruno Schulz's stories, letters and drawings in one volume. Schulz is the author of two collections of stories, Cinnamon Shops and Sanatorium under the Sign of the Hourglass.
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English (4)  Dutch (1)  All languages (5)
Showing 4 of 4
Unbelievable. Totally perfect in that crazy Borges/Kafka way, but denser. Read it right now. ( )
  Eoin | Jun 3, 2019 |
Schulz, a Polish Jew, published only the two volumes of fiction collected here before his shooting by a Gestapo soldier in 1942. They are concerned with the slipperiness of time, the weather and seasons, human imperfection, and limitless imagining. Very little in these stories can be taken literally. Even commonplace events morph into fantastical occurrences. It is hard to characterize Schulz's writing, but in placing one of these stories in their collection, THE WEIRD, Jeff and Ann Vandermeer certainly provide one viable definition. At times, in the second set of stories, there is almost too much awareness in the narrative of the artificiality of it all, which detracts from the effect, but for the most part, each of these stories is an escape into a rather lonely mind exploring a world of its own creation. Reading them one after another is perhaps detrimental to their enjoyment--however, the links between the stories, and some of the meaning, would be missed if you don't. There's a little Kafka here, a little Poe, but mostly a lot of Schulz.

Story-by-story reviews:

THE STREET OF CROCODILES (****+ overall for this book)

August ***1/2
Strange, grotesque, impressionistic portraits of family, friends, and neighbors from the perspective of a boy whose father has gone to "take the waters." Quite a dark conclusion, and not an August we would want to share.

Visitation ****1/2
Truly bizarre story of the wasting away of the narrator's father. Oddly, though, I'm not reminded of Kafka or something really dark, but rather of Edward Gorey. Some lines here, I swear, could come straight from Gorey, such as "During that period he used to disappear for many days into some distant corner of the house and it was difficult to locate him." If you read that and picture a Gorey illustration, you'll know what I mean. I think this story, which is so deliberately odd, is mean to be partly humorous.

Birds ****
In this one, the father becomes obsessed with birds. "It is significant that the condor used my father's chamberpot."

Tailors' Dummies ****
Father develops a strange theory about inanimate objects. Completely weird, with a bit of Kafka--but darkly humorous.

Nimrod *****
Completely different in tone, this is an insightful, joyful look at the world through the eyes of a new puppy brought into the home.

Pan ****
Story of a venture beyond a familiar fence into an unruly, wild garden shows Schulz's descriptive powers at their height.

Mr. Charles ***
Man prepares to walk to visit his family who is staying outside of town for the summer. Odd (no surprise there) story doesn't quite register the way the others in this book do.

Cinnamon Shops ****1/2
A boy, sent on an errand, instead takes a dreamlike journey through the streets of his town. Beautifully written (or translated).

The Street of Crocodiles ****1/2
A bit like the previous story, a dreamlike journey into the city's industrial and commercial district, where strange things happen--or maybe not. When you read this and think about similar stuff written by China Mieville, you see how imitative he is. This also has a bit of a Borgesian flavor.

Cockroaches ****
In another of the connected stories, father has died. After becoming obsessed with the cockroaches. Or perhaps not. As always, beautifully written.

The Gale ****1/2
The city is pounded by a gale. Strange things happen.

The Night of the Great Season ***1/2
In the random 13th month of the year, which sometimes occurs, strange things take place in father's shop--and the birds--the birds....

The Comet ****
Last story in this part of the book is pretty indescribable--scientific experiments, the end of the world, bicycles....

SANATORIUM UNDER THE SIGN OF THE HOURGLASS (****- average for this book)

The Book ****
Story of a mysterious book whose pages change serves as the intro for Schulz's own book. As usual, it isn't the plot that matters, but rather the series of images Schulz presents.

The Age of Genius ***
Truly bizarre story defies description. It is about drawings; it is about release from jail; it is about...shoes?

Spring **1/2
The longest story in the book is a series of episodes that ends up telling a far-fetched story of the narrator who gets his information from an acquaintance's stamp album, organizes a group of historical wax dummies, courts a mysterious young lady, and muses on this and that. It is like Schulz tried to jam all of his preoccupations into one story. It would have been more effective split up into several. It does have some great images, such as, typically for Schulz, the sky. But it is all a bit tedious.

A Night in July ***1/2
Story about--well, what are any of these stories really about? Just a series of thoughts, of visions. The final paragraphs here, dealing with sleep and waking, are truly poetic.

My Father Joins the Fire Brigade ****1/2
In this absurd story, the narrator and his mother return from a vacation to find father has taken over the fire brigade, the house is full of firemen, and the raspberry syrup is in dire danger. Quite funny.

A Second Fall ***
The miasmas of degenerate baroque art crowded in a closed museum affect the climate of the narrator's environs, or at least according to his father's analysis of climactic trends. But you knew that, didn't you? Weird.

Dead Season ***
Another disjointed narrative full of mysteries, as father becomes one with an entryway, transforms into a horsefly, and engages in various business activities. This one has some memorable scenes, but as for what it means....

Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass *****
Father, now dead, has been sent to a place where time runs behind, so is is still alive, sort of. His son goes to visit. This is a poor description for what is not a horror story, but rather a complex, troubling, psychological experience for the son, who, overcome by sleep must deal with the strange ways of the sanitarium, its adjoining town, and with his father's "condition". Not to mention the dog at the gate. Read without the context of the other stories in this collection, this is still a very atmospheric, effective piece. It has a narrative that, although oddball, pulls you through the entire length of the story without getting completely sidetracked. This makes it more satisfying than the other pieces in the collection, especially the longer ones. Knowing who father is, and therefore the significance of what he decides to do in the sanitarium town (open a shop) adds to the reader's comprehension and enjoyment.

Dodo ****
Amusing portrait of a relative with no long-term memory who gets through life in his curious way, and of his father, once very active, who now has more problems than his son. I hope this was meant as very black comedy! That is how I enjoyed it.

Eddie ****
Portrait of another misfit, a man with a muscular upper body whose legs, which have too many joints, don't work, requiring him to make his way around on crutches--except when he doesn't. This (surprise) is a very peculiar tale, but is effective.

The Old Age Pensioner ****1/2
The flights of fancy of an old age pensioner, desperate for something to do. This one has some of Schulz's most beautiful, wistful paragraphs. Love his re-enrollment.

Loneliness ****1/2
More old age musings, which the author admits are metaphorical. Sad.

Father's Last Escape ****1/2
A memorable end to father's gradual dying, as he turns into a crab or something similar. But that isn't the end of it. It doesn't get much stranger than this. ( )
  datrappert | Oct 24, 2016 |
Prose as memorable and unique as the brushstrokes of Marc Chagall"
By sally tarbox on 15 October 2016
Format: Kindle Edition
Two collections of prose fiction in one volume - I have only read The Street of Crocodiles.
This is an utterly weird book; it reads in one way as a series of autobiographical scenes from the author's youth in pre-war Galicia, Poland. Yet while the narratives talk of his parents, the weather and the family draper's store, they go on to dream-like flights of fancy, reminiscent of Chagall's paintings.
In a story entitled 'The Gale' : "Theodore now sat listening to the attic shaking in the wind. He heard how, during the pauses between gusts, the bellows of the rafters folded themselves into pleats and the roof hung limply like an enormous lung from which air had escaped; then again how it inhaled, stretched out the rafters, grew like a Gothic vault and resounded like the box of an enormous double bass."

In another, 'Cinnamon Shops', the everyday framework of the young narrator being sent back home to fetch his father's wallet results in a totally magical night-time adventure in a town that bears no similarity to real life.

Through all the stories, the dominant character is the narrator's father, mad, mysterious, whether he's breeding birds, doing experiments or developing theories on tailors' dummies. One sees similarities to Kafka:
"He lay on the floor naked, stained with black totem spots, the lines of his ribs heavily outlined, the fantastic structure of his anatomy visible through the skin; he lay on his face in the grip of obsession of loathing which dragged him into the abyss of its complex paths. He moved with the many-limbed complicated movements of a strange ritual in which I recognized with horror an imitation of the ceremonial crawl of a cockroach."

Very beautiful in parts, elsewhere grotesque; some bits are a bit heavy-going but it's absolutely amazing writing (and the translator does a fantastic job of rendering it into flowing English.) ( )
  starbox | Oct 14, 2016 |
Showing 4 of 4
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bruno Schulzprimary authorall editionscalculated
幸雄, 工藤Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rasch, GerardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wieniewska, CelinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woestijne, Joost van deDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In July my father went to take the waters and left me, with my mother and elder brother, a prey to the blinding white light of the summer days.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Brings together Bruno Schulz's stories, letters and drawings in one volume. Schulz is the author of two collections of stories, Cinnamon Shops and Sanatorium under the Sign of the Hourglass.

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