The Art Teacher from Drohobycz: Bruno Schulz by the Quay Brothers

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How’s this for a coincidence? While re-reading Bruno Schulz’s Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass I thought I’d see whether anything new by the Quay Brothers had been posted to YouTube. I should evidently keep a closer watch on the channel maintained by the Polish Cultural Institute who posted this latest short by the Quays just over a week ago, an 18-minute biographical introduction to the very same Bruno Schulz. Any time is a good time to be informed about the works of the author/artist but it was 80 years ago this month that Schulz was shot dead in the street by a Gestapo officer, an act of casual brutality that throws an indelible shadow over the stories collected in The Cinnamon Shops (aka The Street of Crocodiles) and Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass.

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The Quays’ video sketches the details of Schulz’s life as well as the events that led to his death in 1942. The town of Drohobycz where he lived and worked was formerly a part of the Galicia region of Poland, but since the upheavals of the Second World War has been situated in Western Ukraine. This is the place we find transformed in Schulz’s fiction, in a cycle of narratives that aren’t so much stories as reports from a dreamworld of shifting perspectives and fluid metamorphosis, where even the boundary between life and death is made tenuous and debatable. Wojciech Has did a superb job of conveying the mutable quality of Schulz’s fiction in The Hourglass Sanatorium (1973), and the Quay Brothers are currently adapting the same material, a small fragment of which may be seen in this memorial.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Quay Brothers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Hourglass Sanatorium by Wojciech Has

The Legend of Charlie Fish

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I’ve had several new book covers waiting in the wings for the past few months. The most recent of these, the cover for The Legend of Charlie Fish by Josh Rountree, was made public earlier this week so I can reveal it here.

In this debut, neo-gothic Western novel, an unlikely found family flees to Galveston, Texas, and a psychic young girl bonds with an enigmatic gill-man. While two bounty hunters are determined to profit by the spectacle Charlie Fish, the Great Storm—the worst natural disaster in US history—is on its way.

The brief for this one was to create something similar to the covers I designed for Mike Shevdon’s Courts of the Fayre series. Having already been asked to imitate the look of that series for a Marianne Williamson cover I was a little reluctant to do so again, but the final version of this one feels sufficiently different from the others to stand apart. One advantage of the graphic treatment was being able to use silhouettes to hint at the nature of the “enigmatic gill-man” without being too specific. When the appearance of characters is more alluded to than described you have to take care that your artwork isn’t too literal.

The Legend of Charlie Fish will be published by Tachyon in July 2023.

Marabout Fantastique book covers

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A post for Halloween featuring a selection of covers from the “Fantastique” imprint of Belgian publisher Bibliothèque Marabout. The imprint, which was only labelled “Fantastique” on later editions, was launched around 1969 and ran through the 1970s before petering out in the early 1980s. The uniform cover design—almost always black with titles set in Roberta—is an attraction for paperback collectors even when the titles are very familiar ones, and when the cover art, most of which was the work of Henri Lievens (1920–2000), is sketchy and vague.

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Among the Belgian writers rubbing shoulders with their more famous foreign counterparts are Jean Ray, author of the cult novel Malpertuis, playwright Michel de Ghelderode, and Thomas Owen (the pen-name of Gérald Bertot). Not all of the artwork is credited but most of the examples here are the work of the prolific Lievens, an artist whose cobwebbed eccentricities sometimes exceed the bounds of their brief; that flapping creature on the cover of The White People by Arthur Machen has no analogue in any of Machen’s stories. Later covers in the series saw contributions from Jean Alessandrini, with collages that were the subject of an earlier post. Marabout is still publishing today, albeit in a reduced fashion, having relocated to France where the company is now a tiny part of the Hachette empire.

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Georges Méliès, Mage

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Georges Méliès: magician. Yes, indeed. I was watching Martin Scorsese’s Hugo again recently, a film I found more enjoyable the second time around mostly for the Méliès side of the story. The flashback to the Star Films studio offers in miniature a history that this book delivers in detail. Georges Méliès, Mage (1945) by Maurice Bessy and Joseph-Marie Lo Duca is a copiously illustrated guide to Méliès’ entire career, beginning with his early years as a conjuror and a creator of the kinds of theatrical fantasies that formed the basis for his first films. The text is in French throughout but there’s a wealth of pictorial material, with many production sketches and drawings that show how some of his more complex effects were achieved.

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One of the things I’ve always found attractive about Méliès’ films is the way they resemble 19th-century illustrations brought to life. The same can be said about some of the later Hollywood productions, especially the Douglas Fairbanks Thief of Bagdad, but they lack the overt theatricality of Méliès. For a taste of those hand-tinted marvels, go here.

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Weekend links 638

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• After writing about Hungarian animator Marcell Jankovics back in January, I left a comment expressing the hope that Arrow or Eureka might give us a Region B blu-ray of Son of the White Mare (aka Fehérlófia), Jankovics’s “psychedelic” animated feature from 1982. Fast-forward nine months to Eureka’s announcement that they’ll be doing exactly this in November. Watch the trailer. The release will include some of the director’s short films plus his first feature, Johnny Corncob (1973), a historical tale presented in the “groovy” style (previously) popularised by Yellow Submarine. If idle wishes can be granted so easily then I’ll hope again that Eureka might do the same for René Laloux’s second and third animated features, the Moebius-designed Time Masters (1982) (made in the same studio as Son of the White Mare) and the Caza-designed Gandahar (1987). Fingers crossed.

• “I don’t think anybody copies me, but Harmony Korine, Todd Solondz, Bruno Dumont, Gaspar Noé, I like those kinds of directors. They’re sometimes not funny at all. They’re very serious and eerily melodramatic. I just like movies that surprise me.” John Waters (yet again) talking to Conor Williams about films, writing and a prayer for Pasolini.

• “There is something profoundly haunting about a master artist’s last painting left unfinished upon its easel…” Kevin Dann on The Mermaid (1910) by Howard Pyle.

• At Bandcamp: Navigating the Nurse With Wound List: A Gateway to Far-Flung Sounds.

• “Juicy With Meaning”: Alex Denney chooses five essential films by David Cronenberg.

• Mix of the week: Discovering 1970s jazz fusion with Kerri Chandler.

• Coming soon from Strange Attractor: Purgatory by Ken Hollings.

• Steven Heller’s font(s) of the month: Farandole & Lustik.

Dennis Cooper’s favourite albums.

• RIP Peter Straub.

White Horses (1968) by Jacky | Five White Horses (1968) by Sun Dragon | Ride A White Horse (2006) by Goldfrapp