Bruno Schulz Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Two collections of stories were the only literary works Bruno Schulz published during his lifetime. Since 1964, all of his extant works have been published in Poland; these have included prose sketches, essays and critical reviews of other literary works, and letters. The main collections in Polish are Proza (1964; prose) and Ksiga listów (1975; collected letters, edited by Jerzy Ficowski). All of his papers, and sketches for a work titled “Mesjasz” (the messiah), were destroyed during World War II.

Before he became known as a writer, Bruno Schulz was active as an engraver, sketch artist, and painter. Two collections of his artistic production are available in English: Letters and Drawings of Bruno Schulz (1988) and The Drawings of Bruno Schulz (1990). Schulz’s drawings, variously erotic and grotesque, call to mind George Grosz, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Marc Chagall. Schulz often depicts sadomasochistic themes, showing men groveling at the feet of women. Among his drawings are illustrations for a number of his stories, including “Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass,” “Spring,” and a few others.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Bruno Schulz created a prose style and a mode of narration like those of no other writer of the twentieth century. He was unquestionably one of the finest Polish prose writers of the period between the two world wars. Cinnamon Shops, his first book (translated in the United States as The Street of Crocodiles), was immediately recognized by Polish literary critics and honored by the Polish Academy of Literature. Since World War II, Schulz’s works have been translated into more than a dozen languages. His influence on contemporary writers has been very strong, and he has been compared to the greatest of twentieth century authors. Isaac Bashevis Singer, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978, wrote:Schulz cannot be easily classified. He can be called a surrealist, a symbolist, an expressionist, a modernist. He wrote sometimes like Kafka, sometimes like Proust, and at times succeeded in reaching depths that neither of them reached.

Schulz’s impact on writers of longer fiction and novelists has been as great as his influence on short-story writers. One example, among many, is Cynthia Ozick’s novel The Messiah of Stockholm (1987), partly based on Schulz’s life and writings. It is difficult to define the exact genre of his prose. In Cinnamon Shops each of the fifteen parts has a title, and Schulz occasionally refers to them as “tales” (in Polish, opowiadania). Yet the term is loose. Three of the parts are an extended “Traktat o manekinach” (“Treatise on Tailors’ Dummies”), and the whole has unity of character, place, time, and tone. In the book, Schulz broke decisively with the traditional forms of both the short story and the novel.

In a letter to the Polish playwright and novelist Stanisaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, in 1935, Schulz wrote:To what genre does Cinnamon Shops belong? How should it be classified? I consider it an autobiographical novel, not merely because it is written in the first person and one can recognize in it certain events and experiences from the author’s own childhood. It is an autobiography—or rather, a genealogy—of the spirit since it reveals the spirit’s pedigree back to those depths where it merges with mythology.

Schulz created a new genre of prose that belongs to him alone.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Brown, Russell E. “Bruno Schulz and World Literature.” Slavic and East European Journal 34 (Summer, 1990): 224-246. An excellent article placing Schulz not in his native Polish tradition but in the context of writers such as Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, Thomas Mann, Louis Aragon, and Robert Walser. Brown also traces the lineage of Schultz in contemporary writers such as the Czech, Bohumil Hrabal; the Yugoslav, Danilo Ki; the American, Cynthia Ozick; and the Israeli, David Grossman.

Brown, Russell E. “Metamorphosis in Bruno Schulz.” The Polish Review 30 (1985): 373-380. Brown explores patterns of metamorphosis in Schulz’s fiction and considers their allegorical meanings. He distinguishes between the ways Schulz and Franz Kafka use metamorphosis, noting that Kafka transforms the boy while Schulz always transforms the father figure.

Budurowycz, Bohdan. “Galicia in the Work of Bruno Schulz.” Canadian Slavonic Papers: An Inter-Disciplinary Quarterly 28 (December, 1986): 359-368. Budurowycz points to the significance of Galicia, “a region suffering from an acute identity crisis and divided against itself,” as a significant formative influence on Schulz’s fiction. To this real world can be tied the bizarre, imaginary world of Schulz’s fiction.

Ficowski, Jerzy. Regions of the Great Heresy: Bruno Schulz, a Biographical Portrait. London: Newman-Hemisphere, 2000.

Kuprel, Diana. “Errant Events on the Branch Tracks of Time: Bruno Schulz and...

(The entire section is 672 words.)