There’s an emphasis on character action in fiction that I’ve always found hilariously American. We don’t read for historical perspective, for philosophy, for abstraction or allegory or poetic language as readily as readers elsewhere. Instead, there’s something distinctly boot-strappy about our attentions. The sense that we follow a character through their various arcs and impacts on the world seems somehow inextricable from our belief in self-made millionaires, our shark tanks and injunctions to “be all that you can be!”
Bruno Schulz was one of two great Polish fiction writers of the two decades between the wars, and so luckless was he, so lucky are we by comparison, that we may read his complete works in one long, trash-blown, weedy, windy, starry, swirling, Lower Carpathian day. His complete surviving works, that is—and that is the legendary pity of it. Such a day need not even take up your time, for you may go there in time according to Schulz, a limb of freak time that sprouts seamlessly out of time as we think we know it.
Read in great, long stretches — especially outdoors — Rumi’s work has a churning, cumulative effect, not unlike the gyres that so often expose themselves in his metaphysics. He is a romantic in the biggest of ways, always seeking the unity of the beloved, and it is this romance, this endless reliance on love, the rose gardens of the heart sweet with perfume, which has likely drawn so many readers from so many places across so many times.