Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"The Street of Crocodiles" by Bruno Schulz

I will forever think of the excerpt below every August for the rest of my life...  The heat here is crippling so I hibernate in my air-conditioned house and read. ( It's so hot, the dragonflies appear almost magically and drink from the water hose as I water my drooping plants.)  I've wanted to post this excerpt for a while, but thought it would be better appeciated in the month of August about which he writes.

I cannot even begin to describe the luminous beauty of the writings of Bruno Schulz.  My hands tremble with uncertainty even trying to write this...When I first opened "The Street of Crocodiles" and began reading it, I wept and had to put it away.  (How could I have lived so many years and not read this  book?!?)  I've been trying to read the entire book for months.  I read a page, then weep at the radiant words.  Colors & scents swirl and jump from the page.  The pages of my book remain tear-damp, underlined, highlighted, annotated, ink-smeared.  (I long to lunge into the pages of this book and walk around in & inhabit these stories...)

I've re-read the same few pages over and over and over.  I try to move on but I don't want to have read this book.  I forever want to be reading it....in the present tense.  I will soon have to buy another copy so I can try to continue reading without weeping on the pages.  I mourn the untimely, brutal, senseless death of Mr. Schulz at the hands of a Gestapo officer and the words that he never got to write.   I weep at the brutality of man and the death of beauty. 

If you never, ever read another book, you must read this one.  It is so much more than a book...

It's now my #1 favorite book of all time.  xoxo

Here's the exerpt:

“A tangled thicket of grasses, weeds, and thistles crackled in the fire of the afternoon. The sleeping garden was resonant with flies. The golden field of stubble shouted in the sun like a tawny cloud of locusts; in the thick rain of fire the crickets screamed; seeds pods exploded softly like grasshoppers.

And over by the fence the sheepskin of grass lifted in a hump, as if the garden had turned over in its sleep, its broad, peasant back rising and falling as it breathed on the stillness of the earth. There the untidy feminine ripeness of August had expanded into enormous, impenetrable clumps of burdocks spreading their sheets of leafy tin, their luxuriant tongues of fleshy greenery. There, those protuberant bur clumps spread themselves, like resting peasant women, half-enveloped in their own swirling skirts. There, the garden offered free of charge the cheapest fruits of wild lilac, the heady aquavit of mint and all kinds of August trash. But on the other side of the fence, behind that jungle of summer in which the stupidity of weeds reigned unchecked, there was a rubbish heap on which thistles grew in wild profusion. No one knew that there, on the refuse dump, the month of August had chosen to hold that year its pagan orgies. There, pushed against the fence and hidden by the elders, stood the bed of the half-wit girl, Touya, as we all called her. On a heap of discarded junk, of old saucepans, abandoned single shoes, and chunks of plaster, stood a bed, painted green, propped up on two bricks where one leg was missing.

The air over the midden, wild with heat, cut through by the lightning of shiny horseflies, driven mad by the sun, crackled as if filled with invisible rattles, exciting one to frenzy.

Touya sits hunched up among the yellow bedding and odd rags, her large head covered by a mop of tangled black hair. Her face works like the bellows of an accordion. Every now and then a sorrowful grimace folds it into a thousand vertical pleats, but astonishment soon straightens it out again, ironing out the folds, revealing the chinks of small eyes and damp gums with yellow teeth under snoutlike, fleshy lips. Hours pass, filled with heat boredom; Touya chatters in a monotone, dozes, mumbles softly, and coughs. Her immobile frame is covered by a thick cloak of flies. But suddenly the whole heap of dirty rags begins to move, as if stirred by the scratching of a litter of newborn rats. The flies wake up in fright and rise in a huge, furious buzzing cloud, filled with colored light reflected from the sun. And while the rags slip to the ground and spread out over the rubbish heap, like frightened rats, a form emerges and reveals itself: the dark half-naked idiot girl rises slowly to her feet and stands like a pagan idol, on short childish legs; her neck swells with anger, and from her face, red with fury, on which the arabesques of bulging veins stand out as in a primitive painting, comes forth a hoarse animal scream, originating deep in the lungs hidden in that half-animal, half-divine breast. The sun-dried thistles shout, the plantains swell and boast their shameless flesh, the weeds salivate with glistening poison, and the half-wit girl, hoarse with shouting, convulsed with madness, presses her fleshy belly in an excess of lust against the trunk of an elder, which groans softly under the insistent pressure of that libidinous passion, incited by the whole ghastly chorus to hideous unnatural fertility…”

 ~From: “The Street of Crocodiles” by Bruno Schulz, pages 6, 7


Kelly said...

Wow! What imagery!!

Awfully hot here, too, Marion. My trellis moonflowers are struggling (even with watering) and the fence moonflowers have only put out two blooms so far...and I missed them both!

Serena said...

It sounds like a stunning book. It's sweltering here, too. If it weren't for AC, I think I'd have croaked about a week ago. Clearly, Mother Nature is miffed with us mortals and is showing us who's boss. Stay cool!

quid said...

Vivid ad intriguing! Hot as Hades here, but we have some gulf breezes from time to time. Florida can be so much more bearable in summer than people recognize. We have not gone over 100 any day, and have some rain each day to take off the worst of the heat.


erin said...

holy hell! i'm speechless.


Rick said...

in the most primitive of environments, life at it's most savage basic, a fury rises within and transcends it all in diamond richness.
i would have loved to know her mind just then. maybe i do.
a brilliant capture

Terresa said...

This one's been on my "to read" list for awhile, but I've just bumped it up to the top ten (next to read).

"The sun-dried thistles shout..."; heavens, this man is a poet! (Does he know it?)

I can picture you well, sitting curled on a couch with dragonflies outside your window. Of late, the summer is such an appaling state of frenzied heat (107 today at least and a sunburn to prove it), my greatest desire has been to sit and read, too.

I've been reading some lush lit myself of late, most recently Nightwood by Barnes and Pilgrim @ Tinker Creek by Dillard, I heartily recommend both!!


Marion said...

Terresa, you're going to eat this book up. Really. I read "Nightwood" just a few weeks ago and loved it. I've read "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" about a dozen times. (The opening scene where the old cat with the bloody paws comes in the window plays like a movie in my mind...) I own and love all of Annie Dillard's novels and her 2 books of poems. She's a pure genius. xo

Laurie said...

You have sold me! I'm going to get those other two books in your comment above, too! Wow. Oh, and your favorite rose -- I could look at that all day long!

Marion said...

Laurie, you are in for a treat. Sometimes I wish I'd never read some of these books so I could discover them all over again. LOL! I'm a pure dee bookaholic. Thanks for stopping by and happy reading. xo