Today is November 17, 2017. We have met at the University of Gdańsk to officially inaugurate the site of Schulz/forum and allow the interested public to access the “Calendar of Life, Work, and Reception of Bruno Schulz”, on which we have been working for almost two years. According to the adopted convention, the present event should be recorded in the “Calendar” as follows:
November 17, 2017, Friday | Gdańsk. Inauguration (ceremony) of Schulz/forum site.
This brief record* will be chronologically the last one in the “Calendar of Life, Work, and Reception of Bruno Schulz”. Nothing follows us on the time axis, at least not yet. The following days will push us into the past, but now we may enjoy the status of absolute currency as well as experience the ideal simultaneity of the event and its recording. This moment, though, will not last forever. What is happening to us today will soon (in a moment) become just a record. But we are still (for the time being), hic et nunc, fixed in the event which in the history of Schulz’s reception will be recorded – to remember the laconic statement – as the “Inauguration (ceremony) of Schulz/forum site”.
That record will be accurate. To realize it, one may just take a look around. We are now inaugurating, at last, the “Schulz/forum site”. We are entering the river of time which is not past yet, but flowing ahead as it pleases. Let me add with a bit of nostalgia that it is flowing differently for every one of us.
Today – here and now – the door to the Schulz/forum site is wide open. We have been working on it together, each of us according to her or his abilities and wishes. Our activity has been twofold: first, archive searches, analyses of available documents, and reconstructing events on the basis of documentation; second, fundamental and much more time consuming at this stage, preparing an IT framework for the current and future documentation and research. The results of both efforts are by no means ultimate. It is just their first phase.
In fact, we never planned for the results to be ultimate. In the beginning, we made an assumption that at some chosen moment – e.g., November 19, 2917 – we would show them to the public interested in what we managed to do until then, regardless of the amount of the material gathered, and from that moment on we would work on the “Calendar” under the eyes of the world or at least under control of all those who care about Schulz.
This is what is going on now. At present (literally in a moment), it is (will be) possible to use the site under construction and take a look at our discoveries and reconstructions of events. Retrieving Schulz’s biography should be a collective endeavor, therefore we hope that the reaction of the public will be swift and intense. We expect criticism thanks to which we will correct our errors, fill in lacunae, and map unpenetrated areas. We are starting a common effort of putting the Schulzean domain in order.
The project of a “Calendar of Life, Work, and Reception of Bruno Schulz” was proposed a few years ago. I presented its details in a paper delivered in 2014 in Drogobych and then published in the proceedings of the 6th Bruno Schulz Festival. Referring to that presentation, I will repeat in a nutshell the main assumptions:
1. The most important task is to retrieve Schulz’s biography (defined as the course of his life), but not by writing one of many possible biographies (defined as discourses about life).
First we must establish the text of Schulz’s life.
This is not an easy task but it is indispensable and more and more urgent. Just as textology provides in critical editions of a given work a fundament of its interpretations (more or less sophisticated or even failed), the foundation of biographical discourses is (and must be) the corpus biographicum – a sequence of the life events, chronologically ordered and placed in the context of the times. Such proto-biographies usually take the form of a calendar of life and work (log), sometimes supplemented with a history of reception (critical heritage).
2. Schulz’s biography … is above all a challenge for us, Schulz scholars, particularly those of us who will take the effort of documenting and reconstructing events. Thanks to their effort, it will be possible to establish the text of his life and reach beyond the legend of a “modest teacher from Drogobych.” Still, this is not all. The biography retrieved in the calendar of life and work must then be used as a challenge for history which first sentenced Schulz to nonexistence and then to absence or incomplete presence in the collective memory. Thanks to Schulz’s legacy – his work – we do not need to start the work of restoring his subjectivity of a victim of the Holocaust and Stalinism from scratch. The records and testimonies of his life and death allow us to develop credible, if fragmentary, biographical discourses about him. Schulz’s world fell into pieces under the pressure of history. It is high time we put it together and retrieved the lost whole to bring it to the present.
3. The retrieval and reconstruction of Schulz’s life does not have to be started from scratch. Several decades of the effort and research of Jerzy Ficowski, concluded with the final 2002 edition of his Regions of Great Heresy, provided a foundation for a future biography (biographies) of Schulz. Quite important in this respect are two attempts made by Jerzy Jarzębski: first, in his Introduction to the “Biblioteka Narodowa” edition of Schulz’s fiction, non-fiction, and selected correspondence, and second in the book published in a series “A to Polska właśnie”. That foundation includes also contributions made by many Schulz scholars in search for the traces of his life, e.g., those by Wiesław Budzyński, author of non-fiction books about Schulz, Paolo Caneppele, who has been searching through Vienna residence registers for years, and Bronislava Stojanović’s Internet site.
4. Calendars are not ideo-logical. They are chrono-logical.
5. … even though the inner motor of calendars is time, even though they register its flow day by day, still they are not stories of someone’s life from birth to death. They are non-narrative – from Homer’s practice they borrow only the idea of a simple sequence of events. The facts (confirmed by sources) presented in a calendar under specific daily dates may be ordered quite loosely and remain unrelated to one another. A calendar bears non sequiturs, lacunae, rifts, and blank spaces fairly well. They may make the chronicler desperate without, however, violating the main idea of the calendar which in an inevitably non-continuous way reflects the continuous and linear course of someone’s life.
6. Schulz’s calendar must not be an hourglass. It must not close or finish anything, but on the contrary, it ought to cancel the sentences of history and bring Schulz’s back to existence even if that existence is only apparent. In the calendar, his life, which was developing in a specific period of time, stands above time. The praesens historicum – historical present, is a wonderful invention of rhetoric that allows the chronicler, as well as the historian and the biographer, to recuperate the past moments. Let us look at Schulz, carrying the manuscript of Cinnamon Shops, climbing the stairs of the tenement house where Zofia Nałkowska lives. He called her just a moment ago. She agreed to read the manuscript so he is running as fast as he can, anxious and shivering. He still does not know how all that will end. Now he is knocking at the door.