To sleep, perchance

“Above the autumnal opacity of the park the night is flushed by a vague reddish glow.  In the ravaged upholstery of the treetops crows wake with caws of mindless alarm and, deceived by the false dawn, take off in noisy squads; their yawping, reeling disarray throws tumult and vibrations into the murky redness tartly redolent of herbage and fallen leaves.  Eventually the great flurry of loops and turns all over the sky subsides; calming gradually, it descends, lighting in the combed-out tangle of trees in a ragged, provisional file that still shows signs of unrest, rife with misgivings, chatter falling silent, plaintive queries.  At last the swarm settles down for good and becomes part of the sibilant stillness of the surrounding languor.  And night, deep and late, resumes its sway.” — Bruno Schulz, “Fatherland” (trans. Wieniewska)

Abscission

“Autumn is the human soul’s yearning for matter, essence, boundary.  When for unexplored reasons human metaphors, projects, dreams begin to hanker for realization, the time of autumn is at hand.  Those phantoms that, formerly spread out over the furthest reaches of the human cosmos, lent its high vaults the colors of their spectra now return to man, seeking the warmth of his breath, the cozy narrow shelter of his home, the niche that holds his bed.” — Bruno Schulz, “Autumn” (trans. Wieniewska)

Enchanted

“We played host to mysterious distinguished strangers and lost ourselves in conjectures in our desire to penetrate their disguises.  In the evenings everyone gathered in the great hall, where, by flickering candlelight, we listened to one tale or revelation after another.  There were times when the plot spun through these stories jumped out of the narrative frame and stepped among us, live and hungry for prey, and tangled us up in its perilous whorl.  Sudden recognitions, unexpected disclosures, an improbable encounter pushed their way into our private lives.  We lost the ground beneath our feet, placed in jeopardy by contingencies we ourselves had unleashed.  From far away the howling of wolves was carried on the air, we brooded over romantic entanglements, ourselves halfway caught up with their coils, while an inscrutable night rustled on the other side of the window, fraught with shapeless aspirations, ardent, incomprehensible confidences, unplumbed, inexhaustible, itself knotted into labyrinthine convolutions.” — Bruno Schulz, “The Republic of Dreams” (trans. Wieniewska)

Give life an inch, it’ll take a whole planet

“The town lives under the sign of the Weed, of wild, avid, fanatical plant life bursting out in cheap, coarse greenery–toxic, rank, parasitic.  That greenery grows under the sun’s conjury, the maws of the leaves suck in seething chlorophyll; armies of nettles, rampant, voracious, devour the flower plantings, break into the gardens, spread over the unguarded back walls of houses and barns overnight, run wild in the roadside ditches.  It is amazing what insane vitality, feckless and unproductive, lives in this fervid dab of green, this distillate of sun and groundwater.  From a pinch of chlorophyll it draws out and extrapolates under the blaze of these summer days that luxuriant texture of emptiness, a green pith replicated a hundred times onto millions of leaf surfaces, downy or furred, of veined translucent verdure pulsing with watery plant blood, giving off the pungent herbal smell of the open fields.” — Bruno Schulz, “The Republic of Dreams” (trans. Wieniewska)

Narcissoid void

“What do I look like?  Sometimes I see myself in the mirror.  A strange, ridiculous, and painful thing!  I am ashamed to admit it: I never look at myself full face.  Somewhat deeper, somewhat farther away I stand inside the mirror a little off center, slightly in profile, thoughtful and glancing sideways.  Our looks have stopped meeting.  When I move, my reflection moves too, but half-turned back, as if it did not know about me, as if it had got behind a number of mirrors and could not come back.  My heart bleeds when I see it so distant and indifferent.  It is you, I want to exclaim; you have always been my faithful reflection, you have accompanied me for so many years and now you don’t recognize me!  Oh, my God!  Unfamiliar and looking to one side, my reflection stands there and seems to be listening for something, awaiting a word from the mirrored depths, obedient to someone else, waiting for orders from another place.” — Bruno Schulz, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass (trans. Wieniewska)

It’s still summer here, but soon…

“At last came the season of autumnal winds.  On its first day, early in the morning, the sky became yellow and modeled itself against that background in dirty gray lines of imaginary landscapes, of great misty wastes, receding in an eastward direction into a perspective of diminishing hills and folds, more numerous as they became smaller, until the sky tore itself off like the wavy edges of a rising curtain and disclosed a further plan, a deeper sky, a gap of frightened whiteness, a pale and scared light of remote distance, discolored and watery, that like final amazement closed the horizon.” – Bruno Schulz, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass (trans. Wieniewska)

It rained here early this morning

“Girls and young women return from the market.  Some have serious and regular eyebrows and walk looking sternly from under them, slim and glum–angels with basketfuls of vegetables and meat.  Sometimes they stop in front of shops and look at their reflections in the shop window.  Then they walk away turning their heads, casting a proud and mustering eye on the backs of their shoes.” – Bruno Schulz, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass (trans. Wieniewska)

Felis nocturnis

“Everyone is stuck within himself, within the day to which he wakes up, the hour which belongs to him, or the moment.  Somewhere in the semidarkness of a kitchen coffee is brewing, the cook is not there, the dirty glare of a flame dances on the floor.  Time deceived by silence flows backward for a while, retreats, and in those uncounted moments night returns and swells the undulating fur of a cat.” – Bruno Schulz, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass (trans. Wieniewska)

At the sound of the chime, it will be now

“We all know that time, this undisciplined element, holds itself within bounds but precariously, thanks to unceasing cultivation, meticulous care, and a continuous regulation and correction of its excesses.  Free of this vigilance, it immediately begins to do tricks, run wild, play irresponsible practical jokes, and indulge in crazy clowning.” – Bruno Schulz, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass (trans. Wieniewska)

Bearing witness

“Suffering that is limitless, suffering that is stubbornly enclosed within the circle of its own mania, suffering to the point of distraction, of self-mutilation, becomes in the end unbearable for the helpless witnesses of misfortune.” – Bruno Schulz, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass (trans. Wieniewska)

Falling

“Autumn is a great touring show, poetically deceptive, an enormous purple-skinned onion disclosing ever new panoramas under each of its skins.  No center can ever be reached.  Behind each wing that is moved and stored away new and radiant scenes open up, true and alive for a moment, until you realize that they are made of cardboard.  All perspectives are painted, all the panoramas made of board, and only the smell is authentic, the smell of wilting scenery, of theatrical dressing rooms, redolent of greasepaint and scent.  And at dusk there is disorder and chaos in the wings, a pileup of discarded costumes, among which you can wade endlessly as if through yellowed fallen leaves.  There is great confusion: everybody is pulling at the curtain ropes, and the sky, a great autumnal sky, hangs in tatters and is filled with the screeching of pulleys.  And there is an atmosphere of feverish haste, of belated carnival, a ballroom about to empty in the small hours, a panic of masked people who cannot find their real clothes.” – Bruno Schulz, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass (trans. Wieniewska)

Reveille

“Who knows the length of time when night lowers the curtain on what is happening in its depth?  That short interval is enough, however, to shift the scenery, to liquidate the great enterprise of the night and all its dark fantastic pomp.  You wake up frightened, with the feeling of having overslept, and you see on the horizon the bright streak of dawn and the black, solidifying mass of the earth.” – Bruno Schulz, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass (trans. Wieniewska)

Aestivus estivus recidivus

“A night in July!  The secret fluid of dusk, the living, watchful, and mobile matter of darkness, ceaselessly shaping something out of chaos and immediately rejecting every shape.  Black timber out of which caves, vaults, nooks, and niches along the path of a sleepy wanderer are constructed.  Like an insistent talker, the night accompanies a lonely pilgrim, shutting him within the circle of its apparitions, indefatigable in invention and in fantasies, evoking for him starry distances, white Milky Ways, the labyrinths of successive Colosseums and Forums.” – Bruno Schulz, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass (trans. Wieniewska)

Aestivus estivus

“A night in July!  What can be likened to it?  How can one describe it?  Shall I compare it to the core of an enormous black rose, covering us with the dreams of hundreds of velvety petals?  The night winds blow open its fluffy center, and in its scented depth we can see the stars looking down on us.” – Bruno Schulz, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass (trans. Wieniewska)

Shooting stars

“Ordinary books are like meteors.  Each of them has only one moment, a moment when it soars screaming like the phoenix, all its pages aflame.  For that single moment we love them ever after, although they soon turn to ashes.  With bitter resignation we sometimes wander late at night through the extinct pages that tell their stone-dead messages like wooden rosary beads.” – Bruno Schulz, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass (trans. Wieniewska)

Animals!

“Animals! the object of insatiable interest, examples of the riddle of life, created, as it were, to reveal the human being to man himself, displaying his richness and complexity in a thousand kaleidoscopic possibilities, each of them brought to some curious end, to some characteristic exuberance.” — Bruno Schulz, The Street of Crocodiles (trans. Wieniewska)

One size fits all

“Our lives, the big and magnificent lives we can just barely make out beneath the mere facts of our lifestyles, are always trying to occur.  But save for a few rare occasions–falling in love, the birth of a child, the death of a parent, a revelatory moment in nature–they don’t occur; the big magnificence is withdrawn.  Stories rub at the facts of our lives.  They give us access–if only for a few hours, if only in bed at the end of the day–to what’s beneath.” — Jonathan Safran Foer (from his foreword to the Penguin Classics edition of Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles and Other Stories (emphasis in the original))

Where we are and what we do

“We live on the surface of our planet.  Human life happens on a shell as thin, relative to the size of the earth, as an egg’s, or as thin as the paint on a wall.  We have lifestyles on the surfaces of our lives: habits and culture, clothes, modes of transit, calendars, papers in wallets, ways of killing time, answers to the question ‘What do you do?’  We come home from long days of doing what we do and tuck ourselves under the thin sheets.  We read stories printed on even thinner paper.  Why, at the end of the day, do we read stories?” — Jonathan Safran Foer (from his foreword to the Penguin Classics edition of Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles and Other Stories)