Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

A thin, reclusive, shy, and sickly man, Bruno Schulz earned his living as a high school drawing instructor in his native southeastern Poland and wrote stories in his spare time but was too timid to submit them to publishers until friends arranged an introduction to Zofia Nalkowska, a highly regarded Warsaw novelist. She arranged for the publication of a slender volume of his short stories in 1934. Titled Sklepy cynamanowe, it was translated into English by Celina Wieniewska and published in 1963, in Britain under the title of Cinnamon Shops and in the United States as The Street of Crocodiles. Schulz was subsequently to produce one more collection of stories, a novella, and the manuscript of a novel before his death at the hands of the Nazis in 1942.

In Schulz’s fiction, the narrator typically related phantasmagoric incidents wherein everyday reality is transfigured into a dream by the protagonist’s surrealistic imagination. In an interview, Schulz termed the collection Cinnamon Shops “a biographical novel” whose spiritual genealogy vanishes into “mythological hallucination.” This is evident in the title story, which lyrically celebrates a teenage boy’s separation and individuation from his parents and commitment to a fictive family of animistic creatures and phenomena.

Central to most of the tales in Cinnamon Shops is the father, causing critics to compare Schulz to another...

(The entire section is 496 words.)