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.
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.
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!