Two letters to Tadeusz Breza

 

Dear sir!

I need an ally. I need the closeness of a kindred spirit. I crave some affirmation of the inner world whose existence I postulate. Simply to hold on to it by faith alone, to bear it along, despite everything, by the sheer force of my obstinacy, is the effort and torment of Atlas. At times it seems to me that, in this strenuous gesture of carrying, I have nothing on my shoulders at all. I would like to be able to pass this burden on to another for a moment, to straighten my neck and look at what I have been carrying.
    I need an accomplice in exploratory ventures. What is for one man alone a risk, an impossibility, a caprice set on its head, becomes a reality when reflected in two pairs of eyes. It is as if my world, closed until now, constricted and without further plans, has been waiting for this partneship—and it begins to ripen, in the colours of the distance; it bursts open and lies exposed to its depths. Painted prospects deepen, parting to reveal true perspectives; a wall admits us to dimensions hitherto unattainable; painted murals come to life on the horizon, like a mummery.
    It is good that you are not perfect, that you consume time excessively. You need to be filled with unofficial events, unrecorded activities, which use up your time right under your nose, before you decide, in your official capacity, after much standing on ceremony, to sample it. For someone, after all, must consume time—it must do somebody some good.
    People’s weaknesses deliver their souls to us, make them needy. It is the loss of an electro, which ionizes them and disposes them to chemical bonding. Without vices, they would be closed in on themselves, needing nothing. Only their faults give them their flavor, and make them appealing.
    I am immensely pleased that we shall meet. Please come and visit me straight away; I shall be here until the first of July. So far, I have no fixed plans to travel. Perhaps we might contrive something together? First of all, I would like to show you Drohobych and its surroundings, and see afresh through your eyes the scenery of my youth—to lead you into unwritten chapters of The Cinnamon Shops. Please, do come.

Sincere regards,
Bruno Schulz

Drohobycz, 21st June, 1934
ulica Floriańska 10

 

 

 

Dear sir!

I wanted to thank you sincerely for your letter, and to let you know that I have read your piece in The Literary Yearbook [Rocznika Literatury], which you neglected to mention in your letter, and in which you have moved me to the head of the literary year. I consider it an act of great courage that you so uncompromisingly, with your entire being, stand by your ideological friends, that you take responsibility for your ideological sympathisers in this way. I am moved and grateful. Such solidarity of the people close to me consoles me in my depression. For I am severely deprived. The period of leave that I was so greatly counting on has not been granted to me. I remain in Drohobych, at the school, where the rabble will continue as before to assault my nerves with their pranks. For I must tell you, my nerves are spread like a net over the whole woodshop—they are spread across the floor, they paper the walls, they wrap up the benches and the anvil in their thick plaiting. There is the phenomenon, not unknown to science, of a certain kind of “telekinetics”, by whose power everything that occurs on the drawing boards and work benches must also somehow transpire upon my skin. And, thanks to this so superbly developed signalling network, I am predestined to be a teacher of manual work.
    If we are to share those private troubles that beset us, then I shall confide in you a certain malady of my own, which persecutes me, and which also touches on the matter of time, albeit in a different way from the manifestations of gastric diarrhoea that you describe in your case. While your digestive tract allows time to pass through it too easily, and is unable to hold it in, mine is characterised by a paradoxical delicacy—it is subject to an idée fixe of the “virginity of time”, like some rajah possessed of a melancholy and instiable spirit, for whom any woman brushed by a male glance is already besmirched, and deemed to be contaminated, tarnished and spoiled. I cannot bear rivals for my time. I become disgusted with that scrap that they have touched. I do not know how to share time; I do not know how to feed on someone else’s leftovers. (Jealous lovers, too, are served by this very lexicon.) Whenever I must prepare a lesson for the following day, or purchase materials in the lumber yard, then the entire afternoon and evening are already lost to me, and with noble pride I abandon the remaining time. All or nothing is my watchword. And since every school day is profaned in this way, then so do I live in proud abstinence, and do no writing. There is some feudal mentality at work in this refusal to compromise. What do you think—might I perhaps breed it, fatten it up, nurture this quintessence of chivalry?
    Turning to other matters, I shall probably come to Warszawa for Christmas, where I intend to spend a six-month holiday. Will I find you there? I am very much looking forward to meeting you. I attach my expressions of respect and ardent fondness.

Bruno Schulz

Drohobycz, 2nd December, 1934

P.S. Can you recommend an inexpensive apartment in Warszawa?