When I signed up for my subscription to the lovely Sublunary Editions, part of the fun was not knowing what would be coming through the door and when! So far there have been some wonderful arrivals in the form of different sizes of small books, as well as extra mailings of printed texts – it’s all very exciting. However, one item I was most pleased to receive was a slim volume containing what may be the first published work of an author who I find absolutely fascinating. The writer is Bruno Schulz, and the story is “Undula”.

It was back in 2014 that I first stumbled across Schulz; the random discovery of an apparent complete collection of his short stories in the local Oxfam was a bit of a revelation. I’d never heard of him before; he had a tragically truncated life, being murdered at the hands of a Nazi officer; and his works were hypnotic, individual and unforgettable. When I read them, I loved them – with slight reservations. However, the memory of them has perhaps increased my appreciation, and I was very happy to be gifted a more up to date collection with some missing stories last Christmas. Schulz has had something of a resurgence of interest in recent years, featuring in “In Search of Lost Books” and also a book inspired by his work “Inside the Head of Bruno Schulz”, which I covered on Shiny New Books.

Schulz left behind his story collections, a handful of uncollected works and a lost novel – so the discovery of this particular gem was very exciting indeed. It’s appeared online in translation, and also in this rendering by Frank Garrett from Sublunary. I was very happy, to say the least, that my subscription covered this book!

The works of Schulz are individual, and it’s worth bearing in mind that he was an artist as well so he does bring a very visual sensibility to his writing. Additionally, there’s an erotic charge to his art which seems to me to cross over to his written work more in a less obvious sensuality. Here, though, that erotic force is much stronger and ties the narrative in with a series of drawings produced of an “Undula” which was reason the story was first identified as being by Schulz.

Why do you weep and whimper incessantly all night long? How am I supposed to ease your suffering, my little sidekick? What am I to do with you? Where to begin? You squirm, scowl and twitch. You neither hear nor comprehend human speech and what’s more, you’re fussy; your monotonous pain whinges the night long.

The writing of the “Undula” story is certainly less refined, a little rougher than his later stories. But it shares a hypnotic, sometimes surreal atmosphee; the narrator languishes in bed, ill, sharing his room with shadows and cockroaches. As he lies there, he’s haunted by images of Undula, dominating him and his psyche. The claustrophobic setting, the need for the narrator to try to detach his pain from himself and treat it as a separate entity, are unsettling – and the story has no clear resolution, which is probably what I would expect, having read his later works.

Reading “Undula” was such a fascinating experience, and I’m very happy to have it in a Sublunary edition which one of Schulz’s “‘Undula’ drawings on the cover. I’m not sure I’ve read another author who writes quite like Schulz did, and exploring his lost story reminds me I really do need to get onto the lovely volume I was gifted nearly a year ago… ;D