Yesterday evening I slogged through a biography of Bruno Schulz—REGIONS OF THE GREAT HERESY, by Jerzy Ficowski. Much of it is opaque literary criticism, which I skimmed through, but I was and remain drawn to the personality of Schulz and his fixation on the formative symbols of childhood. Only recently, in my excavation of ancient history, have I realized how many pregnant symbols there were in the house in the Briar Hill section of Youngstown, Ohio, where I grew up. The more I look, the more I find.
I came by Schulz a few weeks ago, when I was mesmerized by a short animated film, “Street of Crocodiles,” based on Schulz’s writing. Now, getting more deeply into his life, it turns out this enormously gifted fabulist and artist grew up and lived most of his life in the village of Drohobycz, in the region of Galicia, formerly a part of the Austrian Empire.
Galicia, by spooky coincidence, is where my grandfather, Casimir, was born and raised to manhood. But there’s more spookiness. Schulz’s sister Hania married a German engineer named Hoffman. My grandpa Casimir married a tall slender woman by the name of Josephine Hoffman. Both Casimir and Josephine came to America in 1900, and begat Chester, my father.
Schulz’s painting, above, is “Spotkanie” or “Encounter,” an oil on cardboard, dedicated to Stanislaw Weingarten, and is from the collections in the Museum of Literature in Warsaw. More of Schulz's artwork is below the cut.
Self-portrait of Schulz, pencil, crayon, 1919 (from the collections of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.