“The Dusk Will Keep Falling” or the Story of Bianka

by Wiera Meniok, Schulz Festival directorDrohobych, Ukraine, 2012

One spring, which was able to read its horoscope in a number of ways and nobody could hold it against it, behind the glass door of a white glazed interior, their horoscopes crossed for the first time: Bianka, who was eating a cream cookie by the counter of the confectionary store, and Józef, who dropped by this spring evening to have a cake in the same confectionary store with his father and a photographer. Nothing extraordinary: one often drops by for a cake to the same confectionary store. But this time, it was extraordinary: Józef saw Bianka for the first time – she was “wearing a white dress; she was slender and calligraphic, as if she walked out of the Zodiac.” It would turn out later that she really did walk out of the Zodiac and not from her villa – one of the most beautiful in town; she did not come from this town – she was a stranger there; she was different and nobody was able to guess her secret. But all of this happened much later – now, there is only the resounding glazed door of the confectionary store, walking through which – Bianka and Józef – cannot yet guess their fate in the “early starred aspect.” The early starry night and its shining zigzags on the windows, the white interior of the confectionary store, Bianka’s white dress: everything would look magnificent in a beautiful black and white photograph. Luckily, a photographer is with them, but Bianka did not turn around when standing by the counter, as if she was not willing to pose. And the photographer became useful only when holding up Józef who was falling asleep, tired by the long way back home through distant suburbs or, maybe, half-dreamily thinking about another meeting with Bianka. And his slumbering dreams, which may have overcome him as if he was a child falling asleep on a coat of his father spread out on the floor, came true. But this fulfilment of dreams was nothing like a typical love story. It was something completely different, when one says things that “are sweetest, most quiet and saddest” and after which there is no consolation, only the falling dusk. In addition, these dreams turned into criminal slumber within a short period of time and Józef was accused and arrested. But I will tell you about that in a second. Józef studied Bianka as if she was spring dusk. And Józef’s entire love was heading towards dusk; it was sinking in the west. Józef was studying the mystery of the wonderful Bianka, who walked the park alleys every day at the same time with her governess and could be observed with great admiration and desire, with obstinacy and furiousness, but also with despair, because one deep look of her beautiful eyes could pierce him, but he knew very well that Bianka was aware of all of his thoughts from the beginning. But does he know anything about her thoughts? No, but he tries to find out about them not guessing that his attempts would come to nothing and lead him to madness. However, he is trying – giving himself fully at her disposal – until the last drop of blood, hoping so much that she can count upon him. And she counts upon him or pretends she does, when she does not pay much attention to his ardent discoveries concerning her complex genealogy and – lying in an erotic pose on her elegant bed – one night she inflames her cheeks and charmingly parts her lips in order to say to the completely lost Józef: “Do it… You will become one of them.” This was the only request that Józef got, be he preferred to remain ridiculous and steadfast with his faithfulness and his mission – as she claimed. And – he fulfilled this mission in his own way – the mission of devoted and boundless love for Bianka. And it is not important that his deeply hidden pistol failed to fire – it failed to fire in defence of Bianka during a fight to prevent her being kidnapped. She had to be kidnapped because she was a princess. Therefore, who was Bianka and where does this dusk that keeps falling come from when she starts talking about something that was most important? She was an Infanta and a Messiah at the same time. It was her – a princess, an heir to the Habsburg throne – that changed the ordinary provincial town into a magical place, a town containing a final sense and suddenly ascended. Thanks to this “female Messiah” (Professor Władysław Panas), Józef discovered his own primeval and final sense, which was given to him at the beginning of life and which he forgot about in order to discover it in great enlightening and become unified with it forever – without a chance to ever understand it from the beginning to the end. Therefore, Józef never fully understood Bianka, he never deciphered her secret origin, but only “lifted the veil of secrecy.” And this may seem sad. Hence the dusk that keeps failing. Writing about Józef’s love for Bianka is like writing about Schulz’s love for all women, who were the most important in his life. It is as if writing about a uniform vision of Schulz’s love for a woman – a woman who, in his imagination, is an Infanta and a Messiah – she is and she is not at the same time, because one cannot really know whether she exists in any material form or whether she does not have to exist in this form at all. She is an Infanta; therefore, she will never be able to run away from the threat of kidnapping. She is a Messiah and therefore she will not be able to transcend the border of suffering. And she is a Woman – however, she is a Woman existing in reality in her indisputable materiality, surpassing the categorisation of kidnapping and suffering and becoming fulfilled, time and time again, in desires, feelings and erotic acts. So, Bianka is a Woman. Yes, there is no doubt about it. In her relentless erotic femininity, she is “miraculously concordant with herself”, and she “fulfils her programme completely.” But it is only this programme that she fulfils completely, because two others – the ducal and the messianic – remain unfulfilled; there are gaps left for her and for Józef, who does not cease to be surprised by the fact that “it is simply possible to be Bianka, without any ploys and without any intensity.” For Józef, a unique manifestation of Bianka’s eroticism is even the rough skin on her knees. This element of Bianka’s corporality leads him into tormenting contradictions and antinomies, because apart from her corporality “above and below”, there is only the “transcendent and the unimaginable.” It is here – i.e. above and below corporality – that the secret of Bianka is hidden and the trap for everybody who wants to guess this secret and contemplate it - for Józef in the first place. It will turn out completely, and not accidentally, that only Bianka’s corporality with her entire eroticism are at his disposal – and due to the fact that he does not want to get to know this corporality and accept it fully, obstinately aiming for that which is “below and above”, which is in the depth and the heavenliness of Bianka – this aversion will turn out to be his own drama. In the end, it was not Bianka who let him down and nothing went wrong in the “very core of spring” – as he was trying to complain at a certain moment – but he let himself down, counting upon becoming familiar with the ducal depth and the Messianic heavenliness of the woman in complete separation from her earthly corporality. First of all – and despite all – she was a Woman, and therefore if she even counted upon Józef, she had to resign from his ideal plan, providing an advantage to Rudolf. It is sad that Rudolf won in the most dramatic moment of Józef’s complete devotion for Bianka – he won even though he was not the adept of the Book as the only truth of existence, but only its average guardian. On the other hand, Józef was the true adept of the Book. The Book was destined to him and so he came to believe that Bianka – undoubtedly a part of the Book – was also destined to him. However, things took a different turn. In his study of Bianka and in his love for Bianka, Józef finally reached the basic question and tried to answer it: “Was Bianka kidnapped or did the low heritage of her father win over the blood of her mother and the mission that he was futilely trying to instil in her?” Out of three versions of answers – at the moment of asking himself the question – Józef concluded that the right one was the middle one, located as if “above and below” i.e. on the earth, which is the answer benefitting Bianka’s female corporality. Yes, it seems that the blood of Mr. de V. won in her, and her mother of ducal blood remained the spectre in the autumnal park by the pond with fallen leaves. In reality, Bianka has not been kidnapped because she chose Rudolf on her own; he is holding her hand and ready to meet his rival/ dreamer – thus, Józef’s valiant endeavours look pitiful – he is forced to dissolve his entire panoptical army. Non-fulfilment of the idea of kidnapping reflects Bianka’s lack of fulfilment in the role of the Infanta. With respect to the mission that Józef attempted to ascribe to her, she also became clearly distanced, leaving the town together with Rudolf. She did not decide to suffer; she did not choose the fulfilment of her mission as Józef wished it – she did not decide to be with him and to suffer with him. She did not decide to fulfil the role of the Messiah that was prepared for her by fate. The Woman won in her, and the Woman was obviously not a part of the Book or a part of Józef’s destination. He was defeated because his heavenly Bianka preferred to be a Woman. And she became the erotic corporal Woman with the “sweet eyes” of a “lizard writhing under the blanket” and more and more clearly showing the “treachery of the most holy mission.” Józef’s own scenario, which, as he admits, he tried to impose to the spring, putting under “its bloom his own programme” turned out to be clumsy. Yet, he knew his own fate from the very beginning: and so after the total failure of his ambitious plans towards Bianka, he stated dramatically that he was Abel, whose sacrifice was pleasant to God, yet “Cain would always win.” Out of this spring-time dusk, which always accompanied Józef’s love for Bianka, Cain emerged – unexpectedly and in an even less expected form: Rudolf was no match for Józef with respect to the power of imagination and devotion to the idea. It is sad that Józef’s idea went completely bankrupt and that due to this bankruptcy, he also acknowledged his abdication with respect to Bianka and submitted his resignation into the hands of Rudolf. This is the fulfilment of Józef’s madness, to which he was led by Bianka. Finalisation of this madness was the arrest of Józef, accused of his dreams – the most criminal dream was Bianka: Bianka, who resigned from the Infanta and Messiah prospects coddled in her by Józef; who did not want to accept his sacrifice for her, and who now – with the empathy of an ordinary sentimental woman – waves her scarf saying goodbye to the unjustly accused, sailing away from the place of her potential existence as an Infanta and Messiah, leaving the only place of Józef’s love for her. And the accused Józef can only say: “I saw Bianka for the last time.” And this is the end to the story of love of Bianka and Józef. It is impossible not to return, in this place, to the beginning of the story: the beginning that announced a completely different fate for the lovers: “That was when I saw Bianka for the first time. She was standing in profile by the counter with the governess, in a white dress, slender and calligraphic, as if she left the Zodiac.” Already at that time, there was certain hidden sadness, some dusk of the unknown and the uncertain lines of their love. It is necessary to read from the Zodiac to understand that their fate – at the very beginning – “met and dissolved neutrally.” But it takes great courage to read from the Zodiac even if you know how to do it. And great resignation – if you know how to do it and if you really love – not to try to change the bad omen of the Horoscope. He tried and he lost. But why? Was it really only because of the predetermined lines of the Zodiac? What was it really about: the unfulfilled mission and Józef’s bankrupt idea? It is known that it was only and exclusively about Bianka. But what more? The woman in her won over the Infanta and Messiah. What else is hidden there? Probably the fact that the victory of the Woman released the Demon in Bianka – the demon that drove Józef crazy, that led his highest idea to complete bankruptcy and his love to the unceasingly falling dusk. It can be proved by reconstructing the dynamics of Bianka’s observation by Józef. It can be understood by focusing on Józef’s key statement when – at the moment of releasing the most authentic feeling for Bianka – he had to say with sorrow: “There will be no consolation. Dusk will keep falling.” Therefore, what are Józef’s observations of his beloved Bianka who, as if unsuspectingly and elusively, was changing into the Demon? The first case was when her noble and ever present white changed into grey – really menacing, but pretending to be docile: “Bianka is all grey. Her tawny complexion contains the dissolved ingredient of smouldering ashes. I think that the touch of her hand has to exceed everything imaginable.” The exceeding of everything imaginable does not predict anything good. We have to state that Bianka – willingly or unwillingly – by her appearance and behaviour – provokes a perception of another energy in her, not only “own pride, or the triumph of principles which she succumbed to” because “her eyes are dark-circled and they have fiery heat and this purposefulness of look which is not eager for extravagance and which does not miss.” The erotic heat of her eyes could remain the advantage of her femininity if it was not for the infallible demonic purposefulness of looks. With such a look, she can predict Józef’s every question – and answer every question without it being asked. Does Bianka have demonic power by being able to answer every question that was not asked with “one deep, concise look”? It is as if she knows about everything in advance, but her knowledge is not blessed in her, because it awakens in her the sadness of separation from what is natural, “depriving her of joy” even though she is awarded with “inviolability, some higher freedom found at the bottom of voluntary submission.” Bianka is obedient to the Demon freed in her – but she does not know about it. In the end, it will turn out to be true, because otherwise she would not fail Józef, or herself, and she would not reward Rudolf with the privilege of being with her. Another example of Józef’s perception of Bianka when her maximally flourishing eroticism is suddenly changed into painful feelings: “Her white dress […] lies as a parted flower on a bench. Slender tawny legs are crossed with unspeakable charm. The touch of her body must be painful from the concentrated holiness of contact.” Józef never found out anything about corporal contact with Bianka, because maybe unconsciously, he surrendered to the demonic influences in spite of Bianka’s attempts to initiate such contact. But Józef declared that her beauty assumed different shapes with distance and ceased to be joyful; on the contrary, it became “painful, unbearable and excessive.” Józef did not experience Bianka’s erotic femininity, but he experienced the demonism of her femininity. The first and the second face – of the Woman and of the Demon – do not fit his desired perspective of “above and below” – remaining in the middle, i.e. on the Earth. He was not able to revive the Infanta and Messiah in Bianka – she made her own choice. Bruno Schulz – as we can only deduce – may have looked for an Infanta and Messiah in every one of his women. And every one of them made her own choice. And maybe – similarly to Józef – at the most important moment of love to one of the most important women, he had to state with grief: “There will be no consolation. The dusk will keep falling…” For Schulz’s adepts, the question of which woman was the most important for him will always be a mystery. In the case of Józef, his adepts have clarity: Bianka was for Józef the most important and, probably, the only woman.