Friday 4 January 2013

They died in 1942 -- No.11: Bruno Shulz

The eleventh of this season's creative talents whose deaths in 1942 triggered the release of their works from copyright protection to the public domain in 'life-plus-70' countries is Bruno Shulz, whose story is sketched out here by guest contributor Miriam Levenson. She writes:
Bruno Shulz (1892-1942)

Bruno Shulz spent the majority of life in his hometown of Drohobych, Poland. After studying architecture, Shulz became a teacher of drawing at a local school, and used his skill as an artist to provide illustrations for his books. Although his output was relatively small, the powerful imaginative content of his writing caught the attention of both the literary world and the world of film. Shulz’s first short stories were published fairly late in his life, in 1934. Sklepy Cynamonowe (‘The Cinnamon Shops’) is also known as The Street of Crocodiles in English-speaking countries, and was later turned into a film (1986) and an award-winning theatre piece (1992). This first book was followed three years later by Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass, which also became a successful film. Shulz received the prestigious Golden Laurel award from the Polish Academy of Literature in 1938.

The manuscripts that Shulz was known to have been working on during the Second World War have never been found. In 1939 Drohobych was occupied by the Soviet Union, and when the Nazis invaded Russia in 1941 Shulz was forced to move into the Jewish ghetto. For a short time he was protected by a Nazi officer who admired his paintings, and even commissioned a mural in his home from Shulz. Shortly after the mural was completed, Shulz was shot by a Gestapo officer. The mural was painted over and forgotten about until 2001, when it was discovered, restored, and transported to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.

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