Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Drawings of Bruno Schulz

About a month ago I finally bought myself a copy of The Drawings of Bruno Schulz (Northwestern University Press, Evanston, Illinois, 1990, oop) and haven't yet had a chance to curl up with it and leaf through the pages at a long, leisurely pace. Schulz was a Polish writer and artist, the author of The Street of Crocodiles (famously interpreted by the Brothers Quay). Schulz was shot in the back and killed by a Nazi SS officer in 1941, and was prescient in his fears of being killed which caused him to turn over all of his works to family and friends as underground protection against Nazi purges of Jewish-themed art, and lewd fantasy.

This book (that I want to run away and hide with) offers more of his drawings than I dreamed it would -the result of 40 years of research by Jerzy Ficowski. Bruno's work creates a visual and literary world that is so sad, rare and beautiful that I can hardly believe it, and seeing so many of his drawings at once is a treat I've been looking forward to. A large number of his drawings are devoted to men worshipping at ladies' feet, but his work more largely encompasses themes of Judaism and illustrations for his own literature.

From The Street of Crocodiles:

The road became steep, the horse began to slip on it and pulled the creaking cab only with an effort. I was happy. My lungs soaked up the blissful spring in the air, the freshness of snow and stars. Before the horse's breast the rampart of white snowy foam grew higher and higher, and it could hardly wade through that pure fresh mass. At last we stopped I got out of the cab. The horse was panting, hanging it head. I hugged its head to my breast and saw that there were tears in its large eyes. I noticed a round black wound on its belly. "Why did not you tell me?" I whispered, crying. "My dearest, I did it for you," the horse said and became very small, like a wooden toy.