Saturday, June 30, 2012


This Hermetic Legislature

The Ex Occidente homage to the great Bruno Schulz is now out. It has been available for a couple of weeks but I only managed to pick up my copy yesterday. I cycled through the rain (the weather has been bonkers lately) to the mail depot where it was waiting for me. When I got home I tore open the packet -- in fact I cut it open with a duelling dagger I bought in Toledo eight years ago -- and found inside what is certainly the best-looking of Dan Ghetu's tribute anthologies so far!

Bruno Schulz was a fascinating character and a hugely influential writer. My first exposure to his vision was through this bizarre animated film of The Street of Crocodiles made by the Brothers Quay. I have always loved stop-motion animation and the films of such originals as Jan Švankmajer, Walerian Borowczyk and Bruce Bickford have always filled me with strange feelings in a way that live action films rarely do: a combination of wistfulness, terror and ecstasy. The Brothers Quay were among the very best of such animation artists. Anyway, their adaption of the Schulz book led me to seek out the work of the genius himself.

Schulz published very little during his life. The Street of Crocodiles and Sanatorium under the Sign of the Hourglass are his two most famous works; but before his death he had been working for seven years on a novel called The Messiah, unfortunately lost. Apparently it was about the disruption that occurs when the messiah unexpectedly and perhaps mistakenly chooses a small village in the Ukraine in which to make his appearance. My own story in this Ex Occidente anthology, 'The Messiah of the Mannequins', is partly based on this mysterious work. I also tried to incorporate as many 'Schulzian' themes and stylistic elements as possible.

It's hard to describe Schulz's style but I think that Angela Carter made a good attempt by calling it 'Mercantile Gothic' (this was actually in a review of Milorad Pavić's Dictionary of the Khazars, a novel that contains a sequence that is a pastiche of Schulz). The sense of passing time is exquisitely rendered, the mood is crepuscular rather than dark, the logic of events is febrile and not objective. Anway, the tribute anthology is entitled This Hermetic Legislature and more details can be found at the relevant Ex Occidente webpage. Contributors include: George Berguno, Stephen J. Clark, Karim Ghahwagi, Joel Lane, Mark Valentine, Oliver Smith, Charles Schneider, John Howard, Adam S. Cantwell, Colin Insole and the always excellent Michael Cisco, among others.

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