Undula (excerpt) — Bruno Schulz (Frank Garrett, translator)

Maybe it’s already spring out there. I don’t know how many days and nights have come and gone since that time… I remember that gray, leaden February dawn, that purple procession of bacchants. Thro’ a handful of pale squandered nights, right through the moonlit suburban parks, didn’t I dash after them like a moth enchanted by Undula’s smile. And everywhere in the arms of dancers I saw her, deliciously swooning and careening Undula in black gauze and lingerie, Undula with blazing eyes behind the black lace of a fan. So I followed after her with a sweet, burning fury in my heart until my faint legs no longer wanted to carry me, and the carnival spat me out half-dead onto some empty street in the thick predawn darkening.

My pilgrimage, a groping in the dark, with sleep weighing on my eyelids, up some old stairs, climbing right up thro’ the many dark flights, crossing the attic’s black expanse, scrambling alongside the rafters overhead, swaying in the dark wind gusts, until at long last a certain secluded corridor sucked me in, where I found myself at the entrance to the apartment from my childhood. I turned the door handle, and with a dark sigh the door opened to the apartment’s interior. The smell of those forgotten recesses enfolded me; our former maid Adela quietly stepped out from the depths of the apartment, treading noiselessly in velvet, cork-soled slippers. How pretty she had grown during my absence, how pearly white her shoulders were beneath the black unfastened gown. She wasn’t surprised in the least by my entrance after so many years, she was sleepy, curt even. I noticed once more her slender legs with their swanlike silhouette, receding back into the black depth of the apartment.

I groped in the dim light until I found an unmade bed, and with eyes bedimmed by slumber I drowned my face in the pillows.

A muffled dream rolled over me like a heavy cart loaded with the soot of darkness, and it buried me in gloom.

Then the wintry night began to wall itself up with the black brick of nothingness. The endless expanse froze into a blind, deaf crag, into a heavy, impenetrable mass scabbing over the spaces between things, and the world hardened into nothingness.

Bruno Schulz (1892 – 1942) was a Polish Jewish writer, fine artist, literary critic and art teacher . He is regarded as one of the great Polish-language prose stylists of the 20th century. 

Writer and translator Frank Garrett lives in Dallas and is a contributing editor at Minor Literature[s]. His translation of Bruno Schulz’s long-lost literary debut Undula (originally published under the pseudonym Marceli Weron) is out now by Sublunary Editions. http://www.mycrashcourse.net @limmoraliste