Excerpts from Street Of Crocodiles and Other Stories by Bruno Schulz, translated by Celina Wieniewska
(from forward by Jonathan Safran Foer)
There are things Schulz wrote, "that cannot ever occur with any precision. They are too big and too magnificent to be contained in mere facts. They are merely trying to occur, they are checking whether the ground of reality can carry them. And they quickly withdraw, fearing to lose their integrity in the frailty of realization." Our lives, the big and magnificent lives we can just barely make out beneath the mere facts of our lifestyles, are always trying to occur. But save for a few rare occasions--falling in love, the birth of a child, the death of a parent, a revelatory moment in nature--they don't occur; the big magnificence is withdrawn. Stories rub at the facts of our lives. They give us access--if only for a few hours, if only in bed at the end of the day--to what's beneath.
But rub is too gentle a word for Schulz's writing. And what it uncovers is nothing like a fairy tale. I remember the first time I read The Street of Crocodiles. I loved the book, but didn't like it. The language was too heightened, the images too magical and precarious, the yearnings too dire, the sense of loss too palpable--everything was comedy or tragedy. The experience was too intense to be pleasant, in large part because it reminded me of how mundane--how unintense--my life was.
(from introduction by David A Goldfarb)
Schulz maintains that, when viewed through the "poetic" imagination, any degraded scrap of reality-- anything that might be found in the world's tandeta, a Polish word describing goods that are shoddy, cast off, second-rate, or trashy--might reveal the qualities of the sublime.
(from The Street of Crocodiles)
Once Adela took me to the old woman's house. It was early in the morning when we entered the small blue-walled room, with it's mud floor, lying in a patch of bright yellow sunlight in the still of the morning broken only by the frightening loud ticking of a cottage clock on the wall. In a straw-filled chest lay the foolish Maria, white as a wafer and motionless like a glove from which a hand had been withdrawn. And, as if taking advantage of her sleep, the silence talked, the yellow, bright, evil silence delivered it's monologue, argued, and loudly spoke its vulgar maniacal soliloquy. Maria's time--the time imprisoned in her soul--had left her and--terribly real--filled the room, vociferous and hellish in the bright silence of the morning, rising from the noisy mill of the clock like a cloud of bad flour, powdery flour, the stupid flour of madmen.