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4.4 out of 5 stars
7
4.4 out of 5 stars


TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 October 2016
Two collections of prose fiction in one volume - I have only read The Street of Crocodiles.
This is an utterly weird book; it reads in one way as a series of autobiographical scenes from the author's youth in pre-war Galicia, Poland. Yet while the narratives talk of his parents, the weather and the family draper's store, they go on to dream-like flights of fancy, reminiscent of Chagall's paintings.
In a story entitled 'The Gale' : "Theodore now sat listening to the attic shaking in the wind. He heard how, during the pauses between gusts, the bellows of the rafters folded themselves into pleats and the roof hung limply like an enormous lung from which air had escaped; then again how it inhaled, stretched out the rafters, grew like a Gothic vault and resounded like the box of an enormous double bass."

In another, 'Cinnamon Shops', the everyday framework of the young narrator being sent back home to fetch his father's wallet results in a totally magical night-time adventure in a town that bears no similarity to real life.

Through all the stories, the dominant character is the narrator's father, mad, mysterious, whether he's breeding birds, doing experiments or developing theories on tailors' dummies. One sees similarities to Kafka:
"He lay on the floor naked, stained with black totem spots, the lines of his ribs heavily outlined, the fantastic structure of his anatomy visible through the skin; he lay on his face in the grip of obsession of loathing which dragged him into the abyss of its complex paths. He moved with the many-limbed complicated movements of a strange ritual in which I recognized with horror an imitation of the ceremonial crawl of a cockroach."

Very beautiful in parts, elsewhere grotesque; some bits are a bit heavy-going but it's absolutely amazing writing (and the translator does a fantastic job of rendering it into flowing English.)
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on 23 June 2008
Some of this deserves to be read out loud - bit of it reminded me oddly of a Polish-Jewish 'Under Milk Wood'. There is a powerful dreamlike quality to the writing -- vivid, emotional, and not very narrative. If you like carefully crafted short stories with a beginning middle and end then this is not for you -- but the quality of the writing is superb. It made me think of the those little gothic models of rooms and their inhabitants that you sometimes see in museums. Made all the more poignant by the fact that I've now read all of Bruno Schults's published work. If you liked this and are equally sorry that there is no more, you could do worse than trying Ishiguro's 'The Unconsoled'.
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on 6 November 2015
I was recommended this book by an Eastern European friend who said it brought back the sounds and smells of his childhood. I was more interested in the historical, social context of a very turbulent period but there is almost nothing relevant in this book. It's simply elegiac and fantastical. It wasn't at all to my taste but might appeal to others.
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on 28 March 2016
Amazing book, descriptions that take you to another world, peculiar and interesting characters
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on 9 April 2016
Fantastically weird! Love it!
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on 26 March 2013
If you are a reader who delights in poetry as prose, penned in an almost musical style... then this is a book for you.
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on 1 May 2003
Realaty and fantasy segue into one another, evoking childhood, madness, Proustian metaphor and Eastern European townscapes dramatised by the heart breaking picture of Shulz's crazed father and his own awful yet strangely apt destiny of the Gestapo bullet. At first the exchange of matter with opposites, solid, liquid, gaseous, and materials and colours with theirs, the metamorphosis of perception,diverts, amuses absorbs - until the accuracy of the decription - at night - undermines your preconceptions and you enter his world of tunneled darkness,
mystic brightness and eery others - of beauty from another realm. Excellent secondhand service from Caroline Downing.
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