THE STREET OF THE CROCODILES by Bruno Schulz

THE STREET OF THE CROCODILES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Bruno Schulz was a Polish author of Jewish extraction who was killed during World War II. His small body of work has been translated piecemeal, and this is the first English version of the present pieces -- one hesitates to call the tantalizingly shifting evocations short stories. They are set in his native provincial town, about the mesmerizing figure of his father, portrayed as an unproclaimed hero battling the furies of dreary conformity and habitual dullness in the smug, self-contained and self-sustaining town. The author roams at will from the everyday world into a surreal fantasia, playing upon both with a swelling sensual prose. His affinities and influences are not yet absorbed in a style of incomplete if distinct individuality. There are marks of Kafka in his transformations: in enthusiastic Uncle Edward, who is eager to help Father the prestidigitator in his dealings with Matter and who ultimately, reduced to his essence, performs admirably as a house alarm; or in Father's fabled demise as he evolves into the object of his fascinated tared, a cockroach (Mother claims he is simply away, travelling). The effect on the necromancer of the simple, prosaic people of the earth -- the sewing girls or Adela the Maid, who can curtail his fantastic flights with the twitch of a finger or the revealing of an ankle, calls Mann to mind. But here, along with his demirges and demons, are humor and a strong sense of beauty -- a starry winter night, a puppy are apotheosized in a particular, memorable prose. The literary will want to know this unusual minor talent as a part of the European tradition.

Publisher: Walker