Style and Technique

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 188

The artist proceeds as a painter by addressing first and above all the visual sense. The design of the map from which he creates his city is shown in precise visual detail. Such visual detail applies to aspects of the city, its people and transport. Because the proportions are out of shape, what one sees is grotesque. Schulz makes rich use of adjectives that refer to decay and disintegration. The most widely used color epithet is “gray”: a gray day, gray-glassed display windows, that gray, impersonal crowd, those dirty gray squares. The author pays special attention to his language (the use of adjectives is only one element), and by means of certain pronouns tries to create the effect of an oppressive atmosphere, of the hopeless treadmill of life, of delusion and irreality. His paratactic syntax carries the effect of a certain monotony, appropriate to the setting of unrelieved grayness, of life beyond redemption. The story is very short (eight pages in the original Polish), yet its power rests on its concentrated linguistic texture, the incongruity of its pictures, and the unique and hypnotic imaginative flight of its creator.

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The Street of Crocodiles

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1921

Forty-three years after they were originally published in Poland under the title, Cinnamon Shops, Penguin Books has reissued a small collection of short stories by Bruno Schulz, now entitled The Street of Crocodiles. Schulz is little known by the American reading public, and his obscurity is based upon his small volume of output (one other collection of short stories, Sanatorium under the Sign of the Hourglass, and a novella, The Comet) and upon the fact that he has been dead for thirty-five years.

The details of Schulz’s death become an allegory for his life and for Poland, his native land. When he was born in 1892, Poland did not exist as a political entity. Drogobych, his home town, was in Galicia, a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which had helped to eradicate the state of Poland almost one hundred years earlier. Poland achieved a brief independence between the end of World War I and the late 1930’s when again it was divided, this time by Germany and Russia. When independence came again following World War II, it was not complete freedom, for Drogobych remains today in the U.S.S.R. (Perhaps because of the political domination at the time he was a child, Schulz had a fluent command of German, but all his writing was in Polish.)

In addition to being born in a “nonexistent” country, Schulz also was born into a social class with which he had no commonality. That is, theoretically he was Jewish, but neither he nor his family had real contact with the larger Jewish community in the area. Thus, it is doubly absurd that his death came as part of the anti-Semitic murders carried out by the Nazi S.S. In 1942 while outside the ghetto on an official pass, Schulz was gunned down in the street during Drogobych’s “Black Thursday,” a day which brought death to one hundred and fifty unfortunate persons. When evening came, a friend took Schulz’s body to the Jewish cemetery for burial. Friends had urged him to escape from Drogobych, had provided him with false papers and with funds, but he chose to stay, for he preferred seclusion and isolation, even if it meant a ghetto existence. When he was killed, a manuscript on which he was working, The Messiah, was given to another friend for safekeeping.

Today, Bruno Schulz, the cemetery where he was buried, his manuscript, and the manuscript’s custodian do not exist; all were destroyed by the ruthless brutality, the inexplicable horror of the Holocaust.

One can only speculate, of course, whether Schulz would have produced more stories or whether he would...

(The entire section contains 2141 words.)

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