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Traumnovelle

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Traumnovelle cover art Another volume from the the Sueddeutsche Zeitung Library: Arthur Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle. It’s a very short text that was written in 1926 and that was the basis for Stanley Kubrick’s film Eyes Wide Shut. I didn’t think that film was particularly good – and that wasn’t just for the fact that Tom Cruise was in it. But having read the book now, I’m pretty convinced that the book isn’t at fault for the film’s weaknesses.

The book is about Fridolin and Albertine, a doctor and his wife in 1920s Vienna. One night after being called to a patient of his who died he goes for a coffee to settle down and meets an old friend in the café. His friend is a piano player and tells him about the really strange and secret parties he’s playing at – blindfolded. While he is told that he absolutely can’t come along, Fridolin is curious enough to dress up and follow his friend to the party.

His intrusion is uncovered and he is to be punished for that. One of the women at the party arranges that he can leave and she’ll take the responsibility. Which seems to be a tough thing but isn’t explained to the reader. Before leaving, Fridolin can see the other women being naked in the next room. All this is fairly mysterious, potentially erotic, and somewhat dream-like.

Coming home, he sees that Albertine is having a dream and without letting her know what he did he asks her to tell it. Which she does. And which again is potentially erotic. In what follows, Fridolin is still bugged by the party he went to. He wants to learn more about it, but people expect him and harshly tell him not to come back or ask. A woman dies in town who he suspects to be the one that freed him at the party – but he doesn’t really know and can’t find out for sure despite trying.

In the end he tells his wife who listens and concludes that both of them should be happy to have come out of their respective real and dreamed adventures safely.

‘Und kein Traum,’ seufzte er leise, ‘ist völlig Traum.’

What’s really amazing about the book is how it makes reality and dreams look pretty similar. It might be fun to look at parts of the text using techniques from Freud’s Traumdeutung which was well established – and IIRC even popular – at the time. At least Schnitzler seems to have been a friend of it and of Freud.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

Bookmark: 22-08-1998 ticket for the BBC Proms, Box 29, Seat 007. — Went there with my parents who bought really expensive tickets for us as they didn’t want to queue in the evening to sit on the ground. While the music was good, consosting of Beethoven’s fifth piano concerto and some Stravinsky, I ended up being quite disappointed: I felt that sitting so far away from the orchestra made it sound worse than on CD where you’re much closer to it and it’s louder and more detailed (never mind being able to repeat stuff). Funny enough, I went to the Proms again with Dave in 2001 and saw the fifth piano concerto once more. That time paying a fraction of the price and sitting on the ground a few metres from the orchestra. Brilliant.

June 23, 2005, 10:49

Tagged as arthur schnitzler, book, eyes wide shut, sz bibliothek, traumnovelle.

Comments

Comment by Gabriel Cooper: User icon

hi! i stumbled across your blog while looking for tocotronic lyrics. looks like something i might be interested in! i’m an american grad student in german literature, and i’ve lived in germany for a total of about 2 years.

keep it up! -g

p.s. i recently read traumnovelle as well, and i’m thinking i may never get around to watching the movie, since everyone said it was so bad and since i enjoyed the book so much!

June 24, 2005, 17:28

Comment by Sun Satsuki: User icon

On the contrary, Eyes Wide Shut is a very well made, visually pleasing picture & does a very nice job of reflecting the wonder & mystery of Traumnovelle. The film is well cast & doesn’t take away from the reading experience in the least. The soundtrack is also most interesting.

May 13, 2007, 8:07

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