Title: "The Cinamon Shops" - originally, "The Street of Crocodiles" - translated.
Author: Bruno Schulz
Genre: Poetic/philosophical literature
In The Cinnamon Shops, Bruno Schulz describes in fantastical, mythologized terms the cloth merchant's shop where he grew up and the bizarre antics of his father, such as turning the attic into an aviary and expounding strange theories on mannequins. Two sides of the Galician town of Drohobycz are seen: the old town full of ancient mystery is contrasted with newer districts that have sprung up in response to oil mining in the area. The Street of Crocodiles is a street of memories and dreams where recollections of Bruno Schulz's uncommon boyhood and of the eerie side of his merchant family's life are evoked in a startling blend of the real and the fantastic. Most memorable - and most chilling - is the portrait of the author's father, a maddened shopkeeper who imports rare birds' eggs to hatch in his attic.
An ambivalent approach is needed when you're reading this book. There are moments when characters' naive and comically erotic behaviours make you laugh and feel indulgent and then shortly after that, there are sharp metaphors that force you to think about the meaning of existence. This book is a poetic journey into the depths of the imagination, to the places where the real becomes unreal, where ugliness becomes beauty, where consciousness becomes dreams. And vice versa. To be honest, it's a difficult and demanding read. That's usually how it is with philosophy. To me, the most captivating thing about this story is Schulz's language style. Luminous writing, words used as ornaments, beautiful metaphors, descriptions that make you see all the colours and scents.
"What swift and fantastic flights cutting the air into packs of magic cards, sprinkling thick flakes of azure, of peacock and parrot green, of metallic sparkle, drawing lines and flourishes in the air, displaying coloured fans which remained suspended, long after flight, in the shimmering atmosphere."
“Reality is as thin as paper, and betrays with all its cracks its imitative character.”
“On Saturday afternoons I used to go for a walk with my mother. From the dusk of the hallway, we stepped at once into the brightness of the day. The passerby, bathed in melting gold, had their eyes half-closed against the glare, as if they were drenched with honey, upper lips were drawn back, exposing the teeth. Everyone in this golden day wore that grimace of heat–as if the sun had forced his worshippers to wear identical masks of gold. "
“On that night the sky laid bare its internal construction in many sections which, like quasi-anatomical exhibits, showed the spirals and whorls of light, the pale-green solids of darkness, the plasma of space, the tissue of dreams.”