Bruno Schulz’s “Undula”, in English (in print*) for the first time, arrives this October

NOTE: Given that this is a truly momentous occasion regarding a highly regarded literary figure in the public domain, this was bound to happen. Just after we announced this, we got work that another translation of “Undula”, by the excellent Stanley Bill, was published online at Notes From Poland. It is a likewise formidable rendering Schulz’s story, and we encourage you to read it. We still intend to publish our edition in Frank Garrett’s tremendously sharp translation in October. If you purchased the book today on the promise of exclusivity alone, get in touch for a refund. Long live the rich and thriving world of literary translation. — Josh Rothes, Publisher

On January 15, 1922, a short story by an unknown writer named Marceli Weron appeared in an edition of Dawn: The Journal of Petroleum Officials in Boryslav, a magazine with an audience of Galician oil officials. Like many trade magazines of the day, it had some small literary aspirations, so the piece wasn’t entirely out of place, though it’s tone was perhaps a touch risqué, with the narrator longing for a woman, the titular Undula.

“Undula” was forgotten for nearly a century, until being re-discovered by scholar Lesya Khomych, who found that numerous stylistic and circumstantial evidence was too overwhelming to ignore: this was a hitherto unattributed story by Bruno Schulz. “Undula” was reprinted in Polish earlier this year in the journal Schulz/Forum 14, credited at last to Schulz, whose stylistic and thematic fingerprints are all over the brief story.

Bruno Schulz (1892—1942) is generally regarded as one of twentieth century literature’s master prose stylists. Isaac Bashevis Singer, a fellow Jewish writer of Polish origin, famously wrote that, “He wrote sometimes like Kafka, sometimes like Proust and at times succeeded in reaching depths that neither of them reached.” Schulz left behind a tragically small body of work, consisting of two story collections—translated most notably as The Street of Crocodiles and Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass—, a handful of uncollected stories (that later appeared in two volumes of his complete stories in English), along several critical essays and assorted letters and ephemera.

Schulz did not publish The Street of Crocodiles until 1934, being known primarily as a visual artist up until that point, which is what makes “Undula” so very special. Sublunary Editions is exceedingly thrilled to announce that we will be bringing “Undula” into English this fall, in a sparkling translation by Frank Garrett. It will be available in a slim paperback, and can be pre-ordered as of today. The volume will be included for subscribers.

“Despite its original publication in 1922,” writes Garrett in his afterword, “the story begins with a sentence that reads like it could have been written in 2020: ‘It must’ve been weeks now, months, since I’ve been locked up in isolation.’ Readers of Schulz will recognize the character of the maid Adela. They will identify certain Schulzian themes and vocabulary: among them, cockroaches, the hazy borders between dreams and waking life, nostalgia, masochistic eroticism, and references to the Demiurge, which I translate as Maker.”

Fans of Schulz’s graphic works, in particular The Book of Idolatry, will recognize the figure of Undula, a mysterious woman as revered as she is imposing, frequently seen with male figures underfoot, both literally and figuratively. It is one of these drawings—originally meant to accompany an edition of Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs, a scandalous novel of the nineteenth century featuring themes of BDSM and female domination—that we opted to use for the cover.

Undula
Bruno Schulz, Translated by Frank Garrett
Pages: 42
ISBN: 978-1-7349766-5-6

About the Author

Bruno Schulz (1892—1942) was a Polish Jewish author, artist, critic, and teacher from Drohobych, which at the time of his birth was a town in Austrian Galicia. Widely renowned as one of the twentieth century’s greatest prose stylists, Schulz left behind only a small body of work, including two collections of short stories, as well as assorted letters, essays, and a handful of additional pieces of short fiction. Schulz was shot and killed in 1942 by a Gestapo officer while returning to the Drohobych Ghetto carrying a loaf of bread. Tragically, many of his final works have been lost, including the fabled novel The Messiah.

About the Translator

Frank Garrett holds a PhD in philosophy and literary theory. He trained as a translator at the Center for Translation Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas and at Philipps-Universität Marburg after earning advanced certification in Polish philology from the Catholic University of Lublin. In 2000 he was a FLAS fellow at the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, and in 2001 he was a Fulbright scholar in Warsaw. His work has been published by, among others, Black Sun Lit, Burning House Press, Duquesne UP, Spurl Editions, and Zeta Books, and has appeared in 3:AM Magazine, Transitions Online, and minor literature[s], where he serves as a contributing editor. Outpost19 published his translation of Robert Rient’s memoir Witness in 2016. Frank lives in Dallas with his husband.