For me this was an interesting read without being necessarily riveting. I was intrigued by Schnitzler's Freudian connection and interested to find out to what extent "Dream Story" exposes the vagaries of the sub conscious mind. With this in mind (excuse the pun) I think there are several clues to suggest that the narrative offers what it says on the cover. This is a dream from the outset that commences with a bedtime story about exotic characters and places (slaves, Prince Amgiad, purple cloak, Caliph's Palace), read by a little girl to her father and mother. The daughter falls asleep, is taken away by the maid and husband and wife prepare for bed in their neat bourgeois setting. Cue thoughts of the previous night's masked ball coupled with the wife's sensual recollection of a time in Denmark and Schnitzler has all the ingredients for a mind blowing trip into the unconscious mind of Dr Fridolin. Consequently the narrative wanders through the dark streets of Vienna, involving strange encounters, a ritualistic and surreal masked ball, erotic forays, hypochondria and a mysterious suicide. Of course this tale could be a dream within a dream, the ambiguity is explicit or it could be Albertine's dream? After all whose eyes are wide open!
on 12 February 2014
Arthur Schnitzler's novella is set in Vienna, quite when is unclear. Whilst it was published in 1926, there are no motor cars on the streets so the atmosphere created seems more like twenty or so years earlier, and this is important as quite a lot of time is spent travelling and being on the streets of Vienna.
Fridolin and Albertine are a a youthful married couple with a young daughter who between them constitute and loving family. Fridolin is a doctor with a thriving practice and is seeking but not confidant of advancing his career. Albertine seems content enough in her role as stay-at-home mother, although we learn little of quite how she spends her time when Fridolin is out.
Schnitzler paints a clear "Vienna never sleeps" portrait for those with the finances and inclination to enjoy everything from coffee shops during the day to the red-light district and more decadent private goings-on through the night. It is a world of shadows, seduction, threatening violence and decay. Fridolin and Albertine, but especially Fridolin, float above all this until their own very personal search for more excitement, sensual and erotic, in their private lives leads to fantasy imaginings, sharing their most intimate dreams and, for Fridolin, an encounter with wild depravity and consequent death.
Schnitzler allows his reader to finalise the boundary between dream and reality, an uncertainty that gives an extra edge to the story alongside Schnitzler's more direct and deft development of drama and tension. Fridolin is an easy target for any young, often quite young, beautiful woman and his appetite for exploring the more depraved aspects of his sexual desires leads quickly to situations where his naive vulnerability is easily exposed and exploited. Quite how he has arrived at this time in his life without succumbing hook, line and sinker to such temptations before is surprising, but this is the distinct impression we are given.
Schnitzler's narrative is light touch not hard core, the extremes are clearly alluded to but never described. Meanwhile, in spite of the crisp pace, there is plenty of time to give colour and life to Viennese society.
The desire to bracket Dream Story with Stanley Kubrick's film, Eyes Wide Shut, is fine when reviewing the film but totally misplaced in an assessment of Schnitzler's novella. Dream Story has no dependency whatever on the film so any reference to it is completely irrelevant when reviewing the book. For the same reason I think it was narrow-minded of Penguin to seek an Introduction from Frederick Raphael, simply because he co-wrote the film script. To his credit he declines to refer to it.
Nevertheless, read and enjoy Schnitzler's story first and then the Introduction if you so wish.
on 5 September 2003
I have to say that, having read this after watching Eyes Wide Shut, I wasn't expecting to like this as I hadn't loved the movie. Yet on reading this beautiful novella, I wonder what Stanly Krubrik was doing mucking about with it. The story may have been set in the past, and therefore I can understand the idea of bringing it into modern times to make it more accessable to this generation, but this original story is absolutely beautiful. The original imagery of turn of the century Vienna adds to the underlying romance of the story, and Krubrick edited out a vital part of the story - that the Wife was not the only one to have nearly been tempted to stray from the realationship - the husband (or shall we say Tom Cruise!!!) also admits to having been tempted to - which puts a whole new spin on the story and adds another dimension, as you can understand why both are suffering frustrations. Instead of a Tom Cruise type moping around New York imaging what his wife might have done, you see why the husband has to deal with such inner torment - because HE as much as his wife has been tempted to stray, and therefore that brings into question the strength of their union, which causes the doubt. Like real marriage, this isn't just a one sided story - their are other undertones, some sininster, some not so. While SK made a good film in itself with EYES WIDE SHUT, I would like to meet a director brave enough to film DREAM STORY in its entirity as it was originally written set in Vienna. That would be truly something !!! Truly magical!!! Truly beautiful...
on 21 September 1999
Dream Story is a delicate and tender book, although not quite as erotic as some have suggested. The translation is at times poor, with some rather awkward and cack-handed prose.
It is a fascinating work, exploring deeply a lifetime's insecurities, fantasies and desires over a hundred pages.
on 26 September 2007
Arthur Schnitzler was one of the leading lights of the phenomenal Viennese (largely Jewish) renaissance of the late 19th/early twentieth century which included Freud, Wittgenstein and Schoenberg. The story nominally involves the quest for a deeper understanding between a doctor and his wife after a bout of sexual jealousy. Much of the book is taken up by a dream-like narration by the doctor of a series of rather implausible and dangerous quasi-sexual adventures that take place overnight. However, with its fin de siècle decadence (and depraved subtext) and unmistakable Freudian ambience, this novella is probably more interesting as a period piece.
on 16 April 2012
Schnitzler novelette travels through human emotions
of jealously,revenge and guilt. Life in a blur between
dreams and realty, but in death eye wide realism.
on 4 April 2000
I really enjoyed this book (unfortunately a translation, but quite a good one). It's a good story, exploring a variety of themes from rejection to fidelity. It is set in turn of the century Vienna, and one definitely feels the atmosphere of decline that Austro-Hungary was experiencing. I thought the movie Eyes Wide Shut was fantastic, but it seems even better now that I have read this book, which Kubrick transposed very accurately into turn of the century New York.
I have not seen Kubrick’s ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ and so confine myself to this 1999 translation of Schnitzler’s novella by J. M. Q. Davis that maintains the light frothy character of the original.
Schnitzler’s central character, Fridolin, is a successful mid-30s doctor, living in early 20th-century Vienna with his wife Albertine and their young daughter. On the surface he is a successful professional but in this Freudian dissection the author cuts deep below the surface to reveal the inner desires and repressions of the couple. Albertine tells her husband that, the previous summer, she had had a sexual fantasy about a young Danish officer she saw whilst the family were on holiday. Fridolin then tells her that, on the same holiday, he had been attracted to a young girl he saw on the beach. The couple agree that it would be better to share such secrets with each other, openly, but then emotions get in the way of such openness.
When Fridolin is called to visit an old patient he finds the man dead and is shocked by the man’s daughter’s claim to have loved him. He is saved from further embarrassment by the arrival of the woman’s fiancé, a fellow doctor. As he walks the street, trying to clear his head, he meets a young prostitute, Mizzi, and then an old friend, Nachtigall, who now earns a living playing the piano at secret venues where members of the professional classes and the aristocracy meet for orgies. Forcing the pianist to give him the password, Fridolin manages to obtain a fancy dress and mask and manages to enter the residence on the edge of the city. Before he can find out what is going on, he is advised to leave by a masked woman. When he refuses he is identified and exposed as an intruder. To avoid his being severely punished, the woman offers to sacrifice herself and Fridolin is thrown out of the house. The next day he finds that Nachtigall has been forced to leave the city but feels no guilt that he has caused this to occur.
When he gets home, Albertine describes a dream she has had that again involved that Danish officer; this time, however, Fridolin is in the dream, being tortured and crucified without her lifting a hand to help him. Fridolin uses this to justify returning to the secret house where he is given a letter that contains a second warning for him to stop pursuing the matter. He returns his costume only to find the costumier is prostituting his daughter. When he tries to find Mizzi he is told she is in hospital and sets out to see her. However, on reading that a young woman has been poisoned, he believes that she is the woman from the previous evening. Rushing to the morgue he looks at the body but is unable to decide whether it is the same woman. He returns home and, the next day, confesses to his wife what he has been up to. She comforts him and they agree that ‘no dream….. is altogether a dream’ and that they should also ‘never enquire into the future.’
An introduction to the novella by Frederic Raphael is included which places the themes of the book - fantasy, faithfulness, guilt, betrayal and jealousy -within the social context of the period, the external position of Jews within the complex ranking of society in Vienna, the prevailing anti-Semitism, the very different attitudes of ‘respectable’ society to the behavior and indiscretions of men and women, the ossified political environment of Vienna and the plethora of stimulating intellectual developments across medicine and the natural sciences that found first light in the capital.
The book retains the ability to shock almost 90 years after its original publication but it is almost impossible to assess its reception within a Vienna where similar hypocrisies and secrets were a regular, if secretive, part of bourgeois families and society. The links with Sigmund Freund’s psychoanalytical writings and his exploration of the dream work are very clear and the author makes sure that the Viennese reader would understand this by calling Fridolin’s medical colleague ‘Adler’. Alfred Adler, together with Freud and Jung, are seen as the three founding figures of the unconscious mind and the application of psychodynamics, the study of the interrelationship of various parts of the mind, personality or psyche and the mental, emotional or motivational forces that are unleashed as a consequence, especially those occurring at an unconscious level.
The `Dream Story' by Arthur Schnitzler has been the object of many comments and explanations. Hereafter my personal interpretation.
The `dreams' in this story are not only unconscious ones (while sleeping), but also conscious ones, e.g. the main male character `dreams' of a double life, one as a rake and one as a family man.
Its themes are very characteristic for Arthur Schnitzler's work: marital fidelity and sex. Marital fidelity here is seriously shaken by the confessions of the main characters, who `dreamed' consciously and / or unconsciously of other partners.
But the main male character, Fridolin, is facing the toughest test of all, when he infiltrates a meeting of a secret `sex' society. The women there are naked except their faces, which are covered by masks; in other words, they have (almost) no individual personality. They represent pure sexuality, naked sex.
At the meeting, Fridolin is detected as an intruder and should have been killed; but, one of the masked women buys his survival for the price of her own life.
The next day Fridolin tries to find the woman, who saved his life. Her death or her survival symbolizes the death or survival of naked sex in Fridolin's life: his choice between a life of a debauchee and that of an exemplary father.
In this masterful story, rich in nocturnal colors, Arthur Schnitzler unveils without compromise intimate 'dreams' and hidden instinctive human desires.
Not to be missed.
on 3 October 2011
Bought this after watching Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. Refreshingly the film tries to remain true to the original novel not surprising the director being Stanley Kubrick. The book is OK. Essentially it attempts to provide an insight into the sexually stifled and repressed bourgeois European mind and the frustrated desire for excitement over and above professional success and the apparent but misleading domestic harmony.
A literary example of letting sleeping dogs lie.
Not a book to rush out and buy, better to read Marcel Proust or Flaubert for a more informative and deeper incisive insight into the frailty and vagaries of the human condition.