Bruno Schulz

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Self portrait of Schulz

Bruno Schulz (July 12, 1892November 19, 1942) was a Polish novelist and painter of Jewish origin, widely considered to be one of the greatest Polish prose stylists of the 20th century.

Schulz was born in Drohobycz (now Drohobych), which was at the time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire's province of Galicia. At a very early age, he developed an interest in painting, and eventually studied architecture at Lwow University and the fine arts in Vienna. He taught drawing in his home town, where his father, Jacob Schulz, was a paper merchant.

The author nurtured his extraordinary imagination in a swarm of identities and nationalities: a Polish Jew who spoke Yidish, Polish and German. Yet there was nothing cosmopolitan about him; his genius fed in solitude on specific local and ethnic sources. He scarcely ever left his home town, and his adult life was that of a hermit, uneventful and enclosed.

Schulz became a writer by chance, after several letters that he wrote to a friend, in which he gave highly original accounts of his solitary life and the details of the lives of his fellow-citizens, were brought to the attention of the novelist Zofia Nałkowska. She encouraged Schulz to have them published as short fiction, and The Cinnamon Shops (Sklepy Cynamonowe) was published in 1934; in English-speaking countries, it is most often refered to by its English title, Street of Crocodiles. This novel-memoir was followed three years later by Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass (Sanatorium Pod Klepsydrą). The original publications were fully illustrated by Schulz himself; however, in later editions of his works these illustrations are often left out or are poorly reproduced. While Schulz spoke German and Yiddish, he wrote his stories in Polish. He also translated Franz Kafka's The Trial into Polish, in 1936. In 1938, he was awarded the Polish Academy of Literature's prestigious Golden Laurel award.

The outbreak of World War II in 1939 caught Schulz living in Drohobycz, which was occupied by the Soviet Union. There are reports that he worked on a novel called The Messiah, but no trace of this manuscript survived his death. Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union, as a Jew he was forced to live in the ghetto of Drohobycz, but some accounts state he was “protected” by a Gestapo officer who admired his drawings. During the last weeks of his life, Schulz painted a mural in his home in Drohobycz, in the style with which he is identified. Shortly after completing the work, he was shot dead by a German officer, a rival of his protector, and his mural was hidden.

A new edition of Schulz's stories was published in 1957, which led to French, German, and later English translations, and his work was rediscovered by a new generation.

Schulz's work has provided the basis for two films: Sanatorium pod Klepsydrą (1973, released in the U.S. as The Hour-Glass Sanatorium), a Polish adaptation of his stories that emphasizes the unforgettably dreamlike quality of his stories; and Street of Crocodiles (Ulica Krokodyli) (1986) by Stephen and Timothy Quay.

In 2001, representatives of Yad Vashem in Israel were allowed to come to Drohobycz to examine his final mural. Controversy ensued when the course of the next three days, they removed five sections of the mural and transported them to Jerusalem, lacking either authority or export licenses from Ukraine to do so.


  • The Street of Crocodiles. New York: Walker and Company, 1963. (A translation by Celina Wieniewska of Cinnamon Shops.)
  • Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass New York: Penguin, 1988. (A translation by Celina Wieniewska of Sanatorium Pod Klepsydrą, with an introduction by John Updike.) ISBN 0140052720
  • The Complete Fiction of Bruno Schulz. New York: Walker and Company, 1989. (Combination of the prior two collections.) ISBN 0802710913

External links

de:Bruno Schulz pl:Bruno Schulz uk:Шульц Бруно


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