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The Street of Crocodiles and Other Stories (Penguin Classics) Paperback – March 25, 2008

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (March 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143105140
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143105145
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #108,270 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Every time I open his books, I'm amazed anew to discover how this writer, a single human being who rarely left his home town, created for us an entire world, an alternate dimension of reality. . . . His [stories] create a fantastic universe, a private mythology of one family, and are written in a language that brims with life, a language that is itself the main character of the stories and is the only dimension in which they could possibly exist. . . . On every page, life [is] raging, exploding with vitality, suddenly worthy of its name."
-David Grossman, The New Yorker

"A masterpiece of comic writing; grave yet dignified, domestically plain yet poetic, exultant and forgiving, marvelously inventive, shy, and never raw."
-The New York Review of Books

"Bruno Schulz was one of the great writers, one of the great transmogrifiers of the world into words. . . . [His] verbal art strikes us-stuns us, even-with its overload of beauty."
-John Updike

"One of the most original imaginations in modern Europe."
-Cynthia Ozick

"Schulz cannot be easily classified. He can be called a surrealist, a symbolist, an expressionist, a modernist. . . . He wrote sometimes like Kafka, sometimes like Proust, and at times succeeded in reaching depths that neither of them reached. . . . If Schulz had been allowed to live out his life, he might have given us untold treasures, but what he did in his short life was enough to make him one of the most remarkable writers who ever lived."
-Isaac Bashevis Singer

"Rich in fantasy, sensuous in their apprehension of the living world, elegant in style, witty, underpinned by a mystical but coherent idealistic aesthetic, The Street of Crocodiles and Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass were unique and startling productions, seeming to come out of nowhere. . . . Schulz was incomparably gifted as an explorer of his own inner life, which is at the same time the recollected inner life of his childhood and his own creative workings. From the first comes the charm and freshness of his stories, from the second their intellectual power."
-J. M. Coetzee, The New York Review of Books

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Customer Reviews

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There is nothing else like this book--and this one book is all there is.
Guttersnipe Das
If his words are as beautiful and bursting with color, light and air in the original Polish as they are in English, he truly was a master.
History Fan
In one story the father has died, in a following one he is in the shop again.
H. Schneider

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

96 of 99 people found the following review helpful By Guttersnipe Das on June 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
If I could cancel one murder and save one life from history, I'd save Bruno Schulz, killed by the Nazis in 1942. If I could save one lost book, I'd save Schulz's 'Messiah'. I can't. At least there is this book of strange treasures, Schulz's collected works. Actually, two books are included here: 'Street of Crocodiles' and 'Sanatorium Under the Sign of The Hourglass'.

The first, Schulz's masterpiece, is only 100 pages long. I could never choose a favorite book, but this is the one I reread most often. Any attempt by me to descibe its contents is a mockery. Reading it is like peering into a strange, dark painting: a mad father, a bewitching sister, a dark corner where something never before seen grows (almost) to life. This book may only take you a day to read, but I promise it will be a illumined and unforgettable day.

'Sanatorium', which I think was written earlier, seems in part a workshop for what 'Crocodiles' would become, but this is appropriate for Schulz: he is the master of life half-created: the life of mannequins, mad relatives, stuffed birds.

My only practical advice is: allow yourself to skim the surreal novella "Spring" if you get bogged down in it the first time you try. Just make sure you don't miss the rest of the stories!

There is nothing else like this book--and this one book is all there is. I envy anyone reading it for the first time.
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64 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Byrd on February 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
It's unusual that I'm unprepared or taken by surprise by a book - years of haunting the cramped and poorly lit bookshelves of second hand shops as well as the thousands of dusty, musty blurbs and short introductions I've read over that time cast a broad net. Though I may not be on intimate terms with a particular author, all my research has led me to the assumption that I at least know of his literary cousins or other members of his extended family. This rather boneheaded approach to literature has no doubt led me to pass up certain worthy books under the mistaken impression that I've already absorbed them through some sort of bookshelf osmosis. On the flip side, though, I'm continually searching for relative unknowns and obscure authors, always looking for that feeling of discovery when my efforts are rewarded with someone truly unique.

And so it was with Bruno Schulz and the surreal dreamscape of his 'Street Of Crocodiles'. Previously unknown to me - it was actually this site that recommended him to me - but as I read through the reviews and picked out descriptions such as 'Kafkaesque', and 'Middle European' and others, a picture began to form in my mind. A picture that is, safe to say, completely insufficient to even begin describing what I actually found inside this strange and densely imagined book.

My own lightweight adjectives may add to the misinterpretation. First, I'd like to address the easiest one to correct - though 'The Street of Crocodiles' may adhere to the loosest definition of 'novel' (as some have described it), when I tried to read it as such, I was nearly overwhelmed trying to arrange it into a coherent picture in my mind.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Lennox of Orange on May 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
Some of the most beautiful writing of the 20th century is contained in the fiction of Bruno Schulz. Although he has not yet received the recognition here in the West that he deserves, his writings are every bit as mystifying and powerful as Kafka's. As others have stated, this one volume contains all of Shulz's stories that are essential reading. This is the one to buy, other collections are always only about half of what you should be getting.

The works of Bruno Schulz are definitely five star, I cannot highly recommend this enough.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Helen Maryles Shankman on March 6, 2011
Format: Paperback
My father survived World War II hiding in a bunker under the town of Drohobych, so I feel eerily connected to this man and his work.

It would be fair to call Bruno Schulz Poland's greatest twentieth century writer. This collection of stories changes the very definition of what a short story should be. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end, yes, but the writing is best described as delirious, hypnotic, dreamlike. You don't read Schulz for the plot; you read for the prose, the intensely sensual visuals, the way the words unfurl like the leaves of a magical vine. Inanimate objects struggle to come to life. Secret rooms grow strange, trapped gardens. A boy blows away with a gust of wind. His father conjures a flock of exotic birds from the pages of a picture book.

The details of his life are the stuff of legend. Bruno Schulz was a shy, frail, brilliant artist, living in the far eastern Polish town of Drohobych. When his father died, he took on the job of art teacher at the local high school to support his mother, sister and nephew.

Drohobych was a particularly brutal place to be in the cauldron of World War II. Thousands of Jews were marched into the nearby forests and killed, or transported to Treblinka to be gassed. For a year, he found an improbable protector and patron in the person of Felix Landau, an art-loving Nazi whose war diary is well known. The artist and writer Bruno Schulz, a man so gentle that he fed flies sugar water so that they would survive the winter, was shot to death on November 19, 1942, at the intersection of Czaki and Mickiewicz Streets, on the eve of his planned escape.

These lushly worded stories give no warning of the conflagration that is to follow, but the reader's knowledge of Schulz's fate inescapably informs every line.
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