The following comments on Bruno Schulz are drawn from the first chapter of Witold Gombrowicz’s Diary 1961–1966.
It would be hard to call it friendship—in the years we became acquainted we were both still unborn. The years 1934, 1935. Aleje Ujazdowskie. We are strolling along. Talking. He and I on Sluzewska. 1 He, Witkacy,2 and I. Nalkowska,3 he and I. In this film, “flickering onto the screen of memory,” I see him as someone almost completely unknown to me, but then I see myself that way, too—it was not us, but the introduction to us, an overture, prologue.
I would like immediately to unload an irritating impropriety, something most certainly in bad taste: Bruno adored me but I did not adore him.
He first showed up at my place, on Sluzewska, after the publication of Cinnamon Shops—I had just published my Memoir from Adolescence. He was small, strange, chimerical, focused, intense, almost feverish—and this is how our conversations got started, usually on walks.
That we truly needed each other is indisputable. We found ourselves in a vacuum, our literary situations were permeated with a void, our admirers were spectral, something of the apparent rari nantes in gurgite vasto, we both roamed Polish literature like a flourish, ornament, chimera, griffin.
After reading my first book, Bruno discovered a companion in me. He kept showing up in order to find confirmation in me, wanting me to furnish him with the Outside without which an inner life is condemned to a monologue—and he wanted me to use him in the same way. He would show up as a friend, yes (I emphasize) as a kindred spirit to consolidate and raise my esteem.
And here is where the “miss” or “dislocation,” to use the language of our works, came in…for his extended hand did not meet my own. I did not return his regard, I gave him abysmally little, almost nothing, of myself, our relationship was a fiasco…but perhaps even this secretly worked to our advantage. Perhaps he and I needed fiasco rather than happy symbiosis.
Today I can speak of this openly because he has died.
Allow me therefore to repeat once again with delight: how he built me up, how he strengthened me. In my melancholy literary life I have gotten my share of shabby treatment, but I have also met people who would favor me, out of the blue, with the lavishness of a Padishah—no one, however, was more generous than Bruno. Never, before or since, have I bathed in such crystalline joy on account of my every artistic attainment. No one ever supported me in so heartfelt a manner, no one ever delighted in me, ever stoked each and every one of my thoughts the way he did—I note: never in the course of our friendship was there any malice toward me on Bruno’s part; indeed, he fed me the milk of human kindness…. It will suffice for me to tell you what happened with…
This is exclusive content for subscribers only.
Get unlimited access to The New York Review for just $1 an issue!
Continue reading this article, and thousands more from our archive, for the low introductory rate of just $1 an issue. Choose a Print, Digital, or All Access subscription.