Change of perception
The Street of Crocodiles
"The days hardened with cold and boredom like last year's loaves of bread. One began to cut them with blunt knives…
I read this book, “The Street of Crocodiles” by Bruno Schulz, at least twenty times in my life. And I always considered this book the best novel I ever read, the pinnacle of writing as an art form. Since I was fifteen when I read it for the first time, every year or so I would go back and re-read it. It became a tradition — an annual or bi-yearly reading and enjoying of this book. I read it in the original Polish, or in English translation, sometimes both side by side at the same time. I even tried to write my own version of the translation. No matter what, my opinion of this book was always extremely high. Until last night, when I read it again.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think that it is one of the best books I ever read. There are fragments, even the whole chapters, that induced goosebumps on my skin while I was reading them. There are passages that I can basically recite by heart while savoring each word and sentence. There is still sheer beauty and haunting and longing condensed in just words in this book, that is unmatched and unrivaled by other writers. But there was also something missing from my recollection of this book from the previous times I read it. Something small, but that something fundamentally changed my awareness of what I was reading.
I understand that it is possible for my perception and taste to change. It is possible for them to develop and grow as I develop and grow as a person. I am a much different person than I was at fifteen when I read it for the first time, or even how I was two years ago when I read it for the last time before last night. And that is the point I am making here — what had changed in me in the last two years to alter my perception of a work of art like this book? And the most prime and radical change in me and in my life and in my understanding in those two years is the fact that I don’t drink anymore.
That brings, of course, more questions — that other perceptions, what other ideas, what other memories and images in my mind are false or exaggerated either in a positive or a negative way. That is a little scary to think and understand that my process of self-discovery will be ongoing for the rest of my life. And for the rest of my life, I will question and re-think and possibly change ideas that I hold dear and accept as the true and singular truth. That might be exhausting. Scratch that — that will be exhausting. Changing internal valuation of things and ideas and morals is not easily done and not easily acceptable by the already working and already set in experiences of the human ego.
On the other hand, I don’t think I have a choice. I will not stand in an emotional quicksand of my experiences and my past lives. I welcome the change — even in my long-held ideas and values.