Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bruno Schulz

Bruno Schulz died on this day, November 19, in 1942.

Schulz was a writer, poet and cartoonist, born in Drohobycz, Galicia, now Drogobych, Ukraine. Schulz studied architecture at Lvov University and fine arts in Vienna, specializing in lithography and drawing. After returning to his native town, he worked from 1924 to 1939 as an art teacher in the local gymnasium. Schulz was often considered strange, and spent many hours on his own in his parents' house, writing fiction.

Schulz's literary career began in earnest in the 1930's. His first collection of short stories "Cinnamon Shops" appeared in 1934, and a second collection, The Sanatorium under the Sign of the Hourglass was published in 1937. (The two titles are available only as a single volume in English, called "The Street of Crocodiles") With these two collections Schulz became celebrated as one of the most original figures of the Polish avant-garde. In 1938 he was awarded the Golden Laurel of the Polish Academy of Literature.

In 1939 Germany invaded Poland, and the remainder of the country was occupied by the Soviet Union. Between 1939 and 1941 Schulz lived in Soviet occupied territory, but when Germany attacked the U.S.S.R., his town was occupied by the Nazis. A Jew, Schulz garnered the favor of a Gestapo officer who liked his drawings and arranged for him to paint frescoes on the walls of his house. However, Schulz's patron had an argument with another Gestapo officer, and to prove a point the officer shot Schulz dead while he was crossing the street.

It has long been rumored that the manuscript of Schulz's last novel, entitled Messiah, still exists in the KGB archives relating to the Gestapo.

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