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Sanatorium under the Sign of the Hourglass (Writers from the Other Europe) (edition 1979)
by Bruno Schulz (Author), Philip Roth (Editor), Celina Wieniewska (Translator), John Updike (Introduction)
Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass by Bruno Schulz
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As a whole, I did not find this to be quite as strong as Schulz's first collection, The Street of Crocodiles. The main issue holding back that half star in my rating was the longest story, "Spring," which did not resonate with me. Though it had its moments, overall the premise was too fanciful in a way that kept losing my interest (sorry I can't be more specific than that). However, the remainder of the collection was more in line with what I love about Schulz: dreamy prose highly tuned into nature and the passage of time, peppered with quirky humor and an exquisite pathos. Loosely arranged as a movement through the seasons, both literally and metaphorically, the collection pairs well with Street of Crocodiles, and in fact the two were combined with a few of his uncollected stories into a later Penguin edition, which also includes Schulz's original drawings, providing a wondrous enhancement of his fictional universe. Highly recommended.
I read this book, which I've owned since the 70s, for the Reading Globally group read on Poland. It's difficult for me to know what to say about Schulz. His writing is often surreal and fantastical, and at the same time he very deeply observes the natural biological and meteorological world around him, and invests these elements with such power that the natural world almost is more of a character than the people. His writing is also very dense, almost claustrophobic in places, and he has a desolate view of the world. Nonetheless, I found some of the stories quite remarkable, including the title story, "Spring," "A Second Fall," and "Dead Season." My edition is also enlivened with sketches by the author to accompany some of the stories
I found two stories in this set to be pretty good: the title one, and "The Old-Age Pensioner". I don't care for the writing even in those, but they make for good stories. The rest I found to be a waste of my time.
It might be fair to say that this is the weaker of Schulz' two collections; that is, it is not 100% consistently mind-blowing. Perhaps only 90-98%. Schuz' prose has the quality of being downright intoxicating. His tales all deal with his family and life in his hometown, but the incandescent profusion of language and imagery reveals the transcendent behind the ordinary.
The first three stories feature an obsession with texts, starting with The Book of the story by that name, in which the Authentic is regenerated, and finishing with the strange season of "Spring," in which a stamp album holds the secrets to the Hapsburg dynasty and a youthful love triangle.
In the title story, the narrator visits his father at a convalescent home, where death is kept at bay through entrechment in the past. As the not-days progress, he soon learns that he is living in recycled time.
"The Old Age Pensioner" and "Father's Last Escape" are haunting portrayals of the metamorphosis of old age and its approach to the final transmutation of death.
Schulz wrote like no one else, and his fantasies of the everyday are worth getting lost in.
Belongs to Publisher Series
Meulenhoff editie (604)
Is contained in
The Complete Fiction of Bruno Schultz: The Street of Crocodiles, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass by Bruno Schulz
This is the second and final work of Bruno Schulz, the acclaimed Polish writer killed by the Nazis during World War II. In the words of Isaac Bashevis Singer, "What he did in his short life was enough to make him one of the most remarkable writers who ever lived." Weaving myth, fantasy, and reality, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass, is, to quote Schulz, "an attempt at eliciting the history of a certain family . . . by a search for the mythical sense, the essential core of that history."
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)891.8537Literature Literature of other languages Literature of east Indo-European and Celtic languages West and South Slavic languages (Bulgarian, Slovene, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Serbo-Croatian, and Macedonian) Polish Polish fiction 1919–1989
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So taken with the stories, eventually, was I that I now have them in another translation along with the Street of Crocodiles story collection and other writings in a single volume, at GoodReads here:
All of this seems to have been put on this site:
by a different translator, though the actual book is nice and the translator for all is listed as Celina Wieniewska, whose translation I found invisible yet attractive.
In summary, Bruno Schulz bears persisting and taking your time. ( )