Nate D's Reviews > A Dreambook for Our Time

A Dreambook for Our Time by Tadeusz Konwicki
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's review
Jun 16, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: warsaw-pact-bureau-of-the-arts, poland, read-in-2011, favorites, 60s-re-de-construction, wwii
Recommended to Nate D by: the partisans in the woods
Recommended for: haunted memories

The past is a trap, a smoldering peat bog, a river that leaps its banks and can only swallow.

Tadeusz Konwicki is amazing, a haunted poetic conscience of communist Poland who fought first Nazis and Russians as a partisan in WWII, then state censors and prohibitions as a novelist and filmmaker. I've already written a brief bio of Konwicki elsewhere but suffice to say that he's my only favorite writer -- besides nouveau roman-ers Robbe-Grillet and Duras -- who is also one of my favorite directors.

Published in 1963, A Dreambook for Our Time seems to be just that, an attempt to directly interrogate the psyche of contemporary Poland, a country desperately trying to work out its own existence under the long shadow of the war and the machinations of a government tied to foreign powers. The story takes place in a provincial township populated by caustically-but-somehow-sympathetically-drawn characters -- an embittered partisan, a peasant ashamed of aristocratic family origins, an ambiguous local religious leader, an old man lost in long-past wars. It's also populated by ghosts: graves of many uprisings, ruins of German bunkers and rumored outlaws in the forest, a house that once belonged to a Jewish family standing in empty accusation. And our narrator clearly has his own ghosts, opening his eyes on the first scene from a fog of pills and attempted suicide, ghosts gradually revealed in long stretches of eerie memory oozing backwards into the past.

While not really yet venturing into the full surrealism suggested by the title (for that, see later work), Konwicki's words nevertheless lend his otherwise stark realities a hallucinatory, mythical quality. The valley shimmers with ambiguities and veiled motives, mundane intrigues and historic portent. Which all blends to make this something of a page-turner through all the desperate spirals of guilt and resignation and regret.
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Reading Progress

June 16, 2011 – Started Reading
June 16, 2011 – Shelved
June 16, 2011 – Shelved as: warsaw-pact-bureau-of-the-arts
June 17, 2011 – Shelved as: poland
June 21, 2011 – Shelved as: favorites
June 21, 2011 – Finished Reading
April 17, 2014 – Shelved as: 60s-re-de-construction
August 26, 2017 – Shelved as: read-in-2011
September 18, 2017 – Shelved as: wwii

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Nathanimal (new)

Nathanimal I've got to check this guy out!

message 2: by Nate D (last edited Jun 07, 2012 11:48AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nate D You really do! He's one of the best.

Nate D And maybe if enough of us get excited, Dalkey will start translating the other Konwicki novels from the 60s and 70s.

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