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More Spookiness

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.

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His pictures are really spooky. Maybe he was a bit of a wag or mentally ill person.

Curious. I don't find his art at all threatening.


I have been re-reading Schulz lately. It's painful sometimes to read his fiction. I think he viewed his own artistic life as lived out in a sort of parallel side-branch of time that does not connect back to the real time. Or a thirteenth month, to use one of his metaphors. Or another: a hidden room discovered in a large house. A bloom of mushrooms has grown there, unseen by anyone, full of fantastic forms and colours. But it's not part of the daylight world.

The powerful imagination of his writing and images compares to William Blake. Both see the fantastic in everything, both have a sort of cosmic vision of man. But for Blake it is the true reality which his imagination is reaching out for. Schulz has abandoned that dream, and sees his imaginations as grotesque mushrooms hidden away, destined to shrivel at the touch of daylight.

Thanks for posting those pictures. Up until now, I've only seen a couple of line drawings that are in the edition of his fiction that I have. But the two above are more interesting - and better quality reproduction - than any there.

Aiden O'Reilly

Hello, again! It's been a while, and I hope all is going well for you.

Yes, Schultz is way out there and his fiction is difficult for a literalist like me to get through. I'm much more interested in his probing of early formative symbols, and looking back I realize my childhood was full of them, but until now I never noticed.

So what's going on? Are you still in Dublin? Send me photos!

Yeah... So, when we'll finally go to Drohobych?

It's on the list but it'll be a miracle if we do it anytime soon. But not to worry. "As Ouspensky says, a miracle is not the cessation of laws of nature but the manifestation of a law."

Yes, it's an extreme trip... Where streets have no name and no law:)
If the help needed or excursion - I'lll be always glad to help. In the meantime stay in Leipzig and think how to go home.

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