Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Review of "Traumnovelle" ("Dream Story") by Arthur Schnitzler

Hello. For my first contribution to this blog, I'm going to start with a work of Austrian fiction that most people familiar with the work know only because it was adapted into "Eyes Wide Shut" by Stanley Kubrik. In case it matters, let it be noted that I read the work in the original German, where it is titled "Traumnovelle", which means "Dream Novella", but it is usually translated to "Dream Story" for some reason I don't understand. I think for now I will borrow Brian's basic pattern of reviewing.

Plot Synopsis:
If you've seen "Eyes Wide Shut", then you already have a fairly good idea of the plot, although, like every adaptation, there are differences. In any case, the plot traces the exploits of a married doctor, Fridolin, over the course of one night and the following day. After realizing that he is disappointed by his marriage, he goes in search of something interesting or adventurous in the Viennese night. Eventually meeting an old friend, he goes to a masked ball of the most unnatural sort, and things truly get interesting.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading "Traumnovelle", largely because the story really is so dream-like yet somehow believable. (I may have enjoyed it on the additional level of having the pleasure of living in the same city as the novel's setting, but even excluding that it is still enjoyable.) Schnitzler works to compose a portrait of an environment where seemingly anything is possible in the night, and in a sort of dream-like reality love and sexuality are continually thrown at Fridolin's feet. Not to give too much away, but an actual dream sequence goes on to show that Fridolin's night is tangled somewhere between dreams and reality, and a fruitless following day proves that it is only in night that these things can happen. There is a weird sense that as unreal or randomly lucky the night is, it is not entirely unreal or impossible. There is a certain connection between all the events and a well-established parallel between the night and day.
While other works by Schnitzler ("Reigen" ("La Ronde" or "Round Dance"), "Anatol") have also focused on the liberality of sexuality throughout all classes of Viennese society in the fin-de-siecle period, only "Traumnovelle" delves so strongly into the dreamworld. Perhaps taking cues from Freud, Schnitzler was clearly interested in what dreams can represent and the worlds they can hide. "Eyes Wide Shut" is a less obvious but perhaps better title for the story, although I would say that the novella is still a better work than Kubrik's film adaptation. In the end, "Traumnovelle" is a fantastic piece of literature and, assuming that the English translation does the work justice, one that is quite worth reading. (It's just a novella, after all.)

Grade: A


Walrus said...

Welcome to the Film Walrus, Patrick. Sorry I didn't notice your post sooner. I had site open on my computer for days but it doesn't automatically refresh.

Interesting to see that you have posted the first non-SF review, although it does sound as if it fits into the neighboring regions of dream/fantasism/surrealism and whatnot.

It has been a long time since I saw the movie but I remember not being much of a fan. I should give it another chance. The novella actually sounds quite intersting as well. Thanks for the post!

Patrick said...

Heh, glad to be a part of the team now. I also noted that even though it isn't SF, it also isn't that far away. It's probably the most out-there work of Schnitzler's I've yet read or or heard of, and I convinced Meredith to buy herself a German copy too. The movie's not bad but just plain doesn't capture the spirit in quite the same way. It's worth a watch, I suppose, though.

As I get more time and can read some more, I may be able to write some more, so be patient.