Friday, May 17, 2013

Bruno Schulz -- beyond paraphernalia

I wrote a piece -- "Bruno Schulz belongs to me, dammit !!" -- in which I said the following:
Speakers presenting serious-sounding papers. Speakers talking about so much peripheral stuff. Speakers not talking about a simple encounter with a miraculous specimen of literature. Talking about anything and everything except a confession of wonder and how they have been affected. 

And last night, I came across this, which seems to me to speak in a similar vein:
The trouble with Bruno Schulz is the following: everybody knows he’s a genius, everybody talks about his tremendous influence, but when push comes to shove it’s all restricted to banalities, as if the measure of a writer’s greatness were to be this community of popular judgments. On the other hand, this comes as no surprise.
Schulz assaults the reader from the very first page and never allows him to rest, never allows him to gather his thoughts. His perfidy lies in the fact that he resists all translation, but encourages us to imitate, to paraphrase and to counterfeit. It’s easier to speak in Schulz’s language than to speak about Schulz. After reading a single paragraph we know at once that it’s Schulz, though we don’t at once know what to say about the paragraph.
The greatness of Schulz is the greatness of his resistance to appropriation, while the result of this resistance is the very small number of memorable books written about him. Certainly, there are a great many discussions, monographs, presentations, dictionaries and exegeses, but few books which would discard the academic paraphernalia and show in black and white that to read Schulz is to wrestle with an angel who means to wrench out your hip.
But then how should we read Schulz? Should we catalogue motifs and themes? This is important, but superficial. Should we illuminate metaphors and track turns of phrase? This reeks of the laboratory from a mile off. Should we compare? But how to compare the incomparable?  
~ from Michał Paweł Markowski's essay "The Republic of Dreams" (translated by Stanley Bill)

Michał Paweł Markowski

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