“He was small, strange, chimerical, focused, intense, almost feverish,” a friend, the Polish novelist Witold Gombrowicz, recalled in a diary entry. His fiction, too, was small and strange. Schulz’s surviving output consists of just two collections of short fiction, some letters, a few essays, and a handful of stray stories. His longest work spans about 150 pages.
In Poland, a narrative of history that embraces fragmentation, diversity, and intermingling is unavoidably political, disrupting a long-standing mythology of the country as a homogeneous Catholic nation.
Although both James Joyce and his editor Sylvia Beach included Spain from the first moment in their international promotion strategy for Ulysses, and the book had acquired considerable fame throughout the literary world in the West, Spanish-language readers had to wait 23 years, until 1945, to read Joyce’s magnum opus in their own language.
They had to wait for a humble insurance salesman with an erratic literary career, with practically no background in translation, and with a knowledge of English that was centainly below what could be expected for such a task: José Salas Subirat faced this titanic challenge all alone and out of love for the task itself.