The following is an excerpt from a paper written for Dr. Annamaria Orla-Bukowska‘s Summer 2012 course “Jews in Poland” at Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland.
At the close of his 1936 essay “The Mythologizing of Reality,” Bruno Schulz considers the uncanny ability of words to rise above the corporeal world, to both render the inexplicable and transform living breath from stale air; he laments our careless discounting of myth in favor of more accurate “reality” and argues “the reverse would be more accurate: reality is but a shadow of the word.” For Schulz, the work of the author is not simply in creating tales that amuse or distract; rather, it is a noble and essential profession that sees its aim as both challenging the world and reinventing it. Even the most cursory look at Schulz’s brief oeuvre presents a clear view of this principle in practice: in the face of looming war and a divided nation-state, Schulz creates a transformative autho-mythology in which his father turns into a bird, Pan appears as a man in a grubby jacket, apocalyptic comets threaten, and anthropomorphic landscapes abound. Born under the Austro-Hungarian rule of Galicia—in a town that was to become incorporated into Poland, and later, after Schulz’s death, to Ukraine—Schulz was actively working from within a milieu that was both oppressive and frighteningly volatile. His response was storytelling. Continue reading