It seems impossible to the author to reach the deepest bottom
of biography, or the final form of destiny by describing the external
stream of life, or by psychological analysis, no matter how deep
it may penetrate. The essential characteristics of human life lie
in a completely different dimension of the spirit, not in the category
of facts, but in their spiritual sense.
To say that this is a novel about Bruno Schulz is not enough. There is some truth in the claim that famous persons become literary characters so as to intensify the intrigue. However, there are always other (often decisive) reasons why the authors decide their characters to be other authors. It can easily be checked on three examples of the contemporary European novel. Peter Esterhazy says in THE BOOK OF HRABAL: "On the one hand, the author felt that he could understand Hrabal well, and, presumably, there was not any vanity in that yet, he found that they differed from each other significantly. Actually: in all respects. Like one egg from another, that was how they differed. But that is the very point, the author focused on his own otherness, his own foreignness." In his novel DOVLATOFF AND HIS MILIEU Alexander Genis states: "Books about others are written when you do not have anything to say about yourself. In this case it is not so. I am writing it solely because I intend to have a chat about myself. But to reach any further, I need quite a high tree." The narrator in the novel FLAUBERT’S PARROT by Julian Barnes asks a few questions: "Why does the literary work compel us to search for the author? Why cannot we leave him alone? Why are we not satisfied with the books themselves?" Instead of the answer, there is the written book.
"The mere fact of individual existence includes irony, deceit, slang," says Schulz at one place. Everything functions by "the rule of the panmasquerade". What kind of masquerade results, I thought, when two individual existences actually meet?
That is why in the novel AMBER, HONEY, AND THE SORB-APPLE Schulz writes letters to his colleague, a literature teacher, with whom he works at Drohobitze grammar school and for whom he cherishes "a special kind of feelings". But my Schulz knows the same as Hamvas: "Seduction is fruitless and futile, aimless and senseless… Nothing ensues from seduction: everything is a magic game of colourful, intoxicating, and deceptive intrigue which enchants and overshadows, but once it is dispersed, both the seductress and the seduced stay alone, disappointed, miserable, embittered, and empty." It is also known to the woman Schulz addresses the letters to and who translates those letters into German, for fear of being discovered by her husband. Nevertheless, they accept the game. Game is the last right they would renounce. Anyway, the ruins of that game and the dungyard of bookish sentiments seem to be witnessing the birth of something that could tentatively be called love or loving.
Besides, this novel is a watery book; that water flows between the shores of pathos and irony, between imitation and spontaneity, between wisdom and banality. Schulz’s love letters flow between two inaccessible and perilous shores: the Scylla of authority (The Foreword to the Serbian Edition) and the Charybdis of anonimity (The Letter to the Editor).
Somebody will wonder with good reason: why Schulz of all people?
Because he was one of the loneliest people I know of. Because he so desperately cried for help from that loneliness. His whole writing and visual arts adventure is a quest for the Other. The seduction of the rarest kind. (And seduction is a special kind of masochism.) Because, at the first meeting (which is "often decisive") with his "person and work" I had a déjà vu experience. He seemed to me somewhat familiar, like an integral part of me. AMBER, HONEY, AND THE SORB-APPLE is a quest for the Schulz in myself. An attempt of private investigation as to how many parts there are in Schulz’s mythology that could also be called my own.
Another thing that ties me to Schulz is life in the province and growing up on the border. This novel was written in the Serbian province, after the exile from my homeland (Krajina), after a childhood in the bordering area where empires, religions, nations and attitudes intreweave.
While writing the novel, I offered Schulz a possibility not to resemble himself and prevented his letters from being a sheer pastiche of his short stories. (There are so many unsuccessful and empty pastiches in contemporary literature.) Hence, I enabled him to be sincerer through formal privileges (the letters to the woman he doubtless cares for, and who is, according to him, their only witness), but sincerer in a different (maybe more authentic way).
I considered it senseless to repeat the procedures of famous precursors and to reconstruct Schulz’s love preoccupations from the shards of his life. The time of reconstructions has passed. I took the liberty to construct his love life from my own grist, with all the characteristics of the places and times I lived and live in. (Hence the polemical reflex of the novel, justifying Borges’s, and not only his belief that every book has to have a counterbook, or counterbooks.) If today’s writers do not write better than their precursors, they at least try to be sincerer than them. First of all, sincerer to themselves.
I have allowed my own reading to "ferment" and thus create the existing seams, fill in the gaps and avoid black holes. My Schulz often peeps from beneath Kafka’s army coat. (Thus for a moment those two Kafka’s last written periods in the letter to his parents are identified with the two holes on Schulz’s body which the lethal bullets passed through.) This book is, among the rest, the quest for the spiritual fatherhood. Which means, it is not the quest for the real father, like, for example, in Kis, but for the father that is incessantly creating and regenerating me. For the father, one of whose fathers is myself as well.
If I have succeeded in something, I think – then it is the intimation of the traces of Schulz’s driving force and the recognition of his characteristic energetic potential, linguistic and narrative, reaching the very verge of surfeit.
That Bruno’s probe that goes down to the nameless, only sporadically emerges to the surface of his biography in my novel and encompasses a few widely known facts, and goes down into the depth again, in search of the possible and the probable.
Preveo na engleski
Sergej Macura ©