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Life & Letters

Regions of the Great Heresy, Jerzy Ficowski; subtitled Bruno Schulz: A Biographical Portrait. Tragic, not in the classical sense, nor the romantic (Schulz considered to be last of the Romantics by some, though first of, or first among, the magical realists may be more accurate), in fact, without sense. His writing truly done in the Sanitorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass (in Polish, klepsydrą, an obituary icon [and often precursor to BSoD]); he was killed in retribution in an intraGestapo spat involving his protector, Felix Landau (last name courtesy of a Jewish stepfather); as Ficowski observes, per "The Comet":
So it is, so it happened, unprepared for and uncompleted, as an accidental point in time and space, without a settling of accounts, nor arriving at any finish line, as if in the middle of a sentence, without a period or exclamation point, without judgment ...
Schulz's story is replete with bitter ironies (the problem with such clichéd phrasing being that it loses force where most needed; I take the Berdhardian italic route). A letter to his last regular correspondent, Anna Plockier, suggests meeting the day that German-Soviet hostilities began; she and her husband were caught up in a joint German/Ukrainian operation: "they were transported with hundreds of others to the woods outside Truskawiec, executed, and buried in a mass forest grave. This slaughter took place in the setting of Schulz's 'Republic of Dreams,' a hallowed childhood spot in the woods near Truskawiec where beneficient powers ruled and any distant danger only heightened the brilliance of a secure existence." Cynthia Ozick's 1987 The Messiah of Stockholm seems to prefigure Ficowski's search for remaining traces of Schulz's legacy, with the twist that Yad Vashem was reponsible for the dismantling of a mural (commissioned by Landau) that came to light (yes, literally) in Drohobycz in 2001 (leading some reviewers, including one NYTwit, to question Ficowski's agenda and credentials, his being a non-Jew 'n' all dontcha know). Manuscript remnants of "Messiah" may still reside, misfiled, in the KGB archives.

For me, literature in translation plays something of the role that a pocket stamp album does in "Spring":
I opened it, and the glamour of colorful worlds, of becalmed spaces, spread before me. God walked through it, page after page, pulling behind him a train woven from all the zones and climates, Canada, Honduras, Nicaragua, Abracadabra, Hipporabundia ... I at last understood you, Oh God. These were the disguises for your riches, these were the first random words that came to your mind. You reached into your pocket and showed me, like a handful of marbles, the possibilities that your world contained. You did not attempt to be precise; you said whatever came into your mind. You might equally well have said Panphibrass and Halleleevah, and the air among palms would flutter with motley parrot wings, and the sky, like an enormous sapphire, cabbage rose, blown open to its core, would show in its dazzling center your frightening peacock eye, would shine with the glare of your wisdom, and would spread a super-scent. You wanted to dazzle me, oh God, to seduce me, perhaps to boast, for even You have moments of vanity when you succumb to self-congratulation. Oh, how I love these moments!
My fervor in this regard is limited to logos, broadly conceived, not that I pretend to comprehension. But occasional glints are enough to light the way.


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