It’s time start talking about The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz which is the latest reading choice of The Slaves of Golconda. The Street of Crocodiles is a collection of fantastical stories that try to capture the memories of a life lived in the Polish city of Drogobych. My first reaction to this book was that I had entered the realm of dreams. For example, here’s a description of the home.
“We lived on Market Square, in one of those dark houses with empty blind looks, so difficult to distinguish one from the other. This gave endless possibilities for mistakes. For, once you had entered the wrong doorway and set foot on the wrong staircase, you were liable to find yourself in a real labyrinth of unfamiliar apartment and balconies, and unexpected doors opening onto strange empty courtyards, and you forgot the initial object of the expedition, only to recall it days later after numerous strange and complicated adventures, on regaining the family home in the gray light of dawn.”
And just like in dreams, actions, people and things may not seem quite right but you don’t question them. I accepted Father’s bird kingdom and the fact that his pet condor uses a chamberpot. I particularly enjoyed the description of Uncle Charles being so tired after a night of revelry and going to bed only to fight with the bedding that engulfed him. In doing a bit of research I noted that some critics compared Schulz’s writing to that of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and that works for me. This dream quality carried throughout the book is certainly a staple of magical realism.
I found myself underlining sentence after sentence of beautiful imagery until I realized I was marking every other paragraph. I could also argue that this book felt like a long prose poem. And, I even think some of these stories would be perfect for reading aloud. Perhaps the only thing that did bother me quite a bit was the lack of dialogue. In the thirteen stories that make up the book some had no dialogue at all.
My favorite story was The Cinnamon Shops. As I read this I couldn’t help but think of some of the art works of Joseph Cornell. I know that might sound odd but just like Cornell who could create art from the commonplace, I think Schulz does just the same thing. Take a look at this description of the Cinnamon Shops:
These truly noble shops, open late at night, have always been the objects of my ardent interest. Dimly lit, their dark and solemn interiors were redolent of the smell of pain, varnish and incense; of the aroma of distant countries and rare commodities. You could find in them Bengal lights, magic boxes, the stamps of long forgotten countries, Chinese decals, indigo, calaphony from Malabar, the eggs of exotic insects, parrots, toucans, live salamanders and basilisks, mandrake roots, mechanical toys from Nuremberg, homunculi in jars, microscopes, binoculars, and, most especially, strange and rare books, old folio volumes full of astonishing engravings and amazing stories.
Overall I was pleased with the book. It was challenging and I feel as if I only skimmed the surface. I still have yet to figure out why Adela was such a powerful figure and what she represented, and what about the encounter with Pan? What did that signify? So much I still have to decipher. This is one book that would definitely benefit from a reread.
I can’t wait to hear what my fellow Slaves thought of the book. If you’ve read the book or would like to hear more about it, join us over at the MetauxCafé forums.