The fantastic journey: A review of Bruno Schulz

I stow my suitcase atop a wardrobe when I’m not travelling. No matter where or how long I’ve travelled, I always return it to the same place. There’s no rigorous routine to it, although the process is always alike. The mundaneness of emptying all its pockets, closing and returning it to its place is offset only by the peculiar similarity to the feeling of putting away a finished book. In both of those ordinary actions, there is an extraordinary looking glass through which, in a momentary reflection, we think of and digest whatever’s passed.

The beauty of that feeling is in its fleeting nature. It allows only for a brief, phantasmal rerun to occur. No matter how long it took, a day, a week, or months, for the journey to end, putting down a suitcase or a book brings about the same brisk reverie.

It’s been more than a month since I’ve picked up my suitcase. I haven’t travelled much lately at all. I’ve been busy. The winter was cold. But I have journeyed.

It began in summer in August where Schulz sets off his stories; although, for me, it was January. Soon after, as if thermal dissonance wasn’t enough, Birds, a surreal story about Schulz’s father and his avian children, accentuate the blur between the real and the incredible. In the Treatises on Tailor’s dummies, severe meditations on the creation of nature and nature of creation have already begun. This convoluted lecture made to ponder our fickle understanding of matter allows for nonconsequential and secular visions of the Demiurge through which one can indulge in unorthodox creative processes. And all of it ends with the tickle of Adela’s forefinger, facetiously and absurdly as only life can be.

In The Cinnamon Shops one can see the unreal within unreal; an imagined world on an illusory map of streets that transform the city, otherwise firmly grounded in fiction, into a place suspended in the innerverse of the protagonist’s young mind.

The Street of Crocodiles is yet another figment of imagination, presented on a map; an old and beautiful map, set in the narrator’s father’s drawer. But this time, Schulz writes a firmer critique of our reality, its decadence and degeneration. Without intended prescription, Schulz cautions us.

It is something to think about in those moments, where our journeys end and we put away our suitcases and our books, allowing for those fleeting reveries to come to mind. Not all reveries will feel like we’d expect them to. It helps to know what composes them and where they are made. Just as food isn’t all the same, although is food, so too the journeys we take make up the nourishment for formation of the subtle moments of our reflections. It is important to consider what one ingests and how. Thus, take Schulz, but take him slowly and with all the attention of your time. Take his Cockroaches and put them side by side with Kafka; witness The Comet threaten the existence of an entire world and then narrowly pass it by, unscathed. Be choosey and strict.

And when that journey ends, and you put the book away, I’ll feel just as I have felt, for a moment, as though you’ve returned from a world where space is set in narrative driven by laws that would defy reality, and yet have felt real. It is eerie how much reading and travel resemble one another. Not only are they similar in experience but mimic each other too by way of us taking them for granted in our daily hungers for more. Too often do we pass by something brilliant, not seeing it scintillating in front of us. We skimp a glorious view; we speed read. We skip the placard in front of a building, in a hurry to take that wide-angle, all-encompassing shot. We read only that which comes easy. What Bruno Schulz does so exceptionally is forces us to pause. He forces you to take your time. By doing so, one is fully immersed in his story and whether fantastical or commonplace, his words will give you a journey worthy of a tender reverie once you close the book’s back cover.

Don’t forget that you don’t have to choose between a book and a suitcase. More often than not, those travel in pairs. And if you’ve come this far in my text, I suppose you’re one with an insatiable appetite for things outside the ordinary. You might be of the sort that reads and travels for more than pleasure but rather for some different, more perplexing sensation. You might be of the sort that rejects tribalism and embraces cosmopolitanism. You might be one of those who are moved by how readily today’s world gives information. You might be inspired by how easily you move and perpetuate this gift of our time.

But if you are not yet there by some chance, if you still look for inspiration and feel the need to be moved – if you are yet to take a journey, take one with Bruno Schulz.

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