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Georges Perec

French writer Georges Perec kept a dream-journal in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Initially reluctant, in 1973 he published it (with some authorial cuts) as La Boutique Obscure: 124 Dreams. In fact it contains more; about that many nights, but up to eight dreams or dreamlets per night.

The back cover calls it "the world's first 'nocturnal autobiography'"..."capturing a universal experience for the first time". Untrue; Kerouac's Book of Dreams dates to 1961; Nancy Price's excellent Acquainted with the Night, 1949; Anna Kingsford's mystical "Dreams and Dream-Tales"... 1878!

Nor is Perec's dream-experience universal. Very French! Unromantic affairs, complaints about inadequate cheese, guys acting tough but over-intellectualizing, even two separate instances of... mimes! (No, really: 71 & 81.) And Jewish, in a place & time vividly recalling the Holocaust.

Perec is known for wordplay and idea-play (his best-known book, A Void, omits the letter E). His dreams are tricky; the translator struggles to figure out what peculiarities are Perec the waking writer, what the dream, and what mere chance. Perec never explains.

Not totally representative, the examples below show my preference for the surreal... and the clear. Relatively clear. This is Perec.

The order below is chronological, as in the book (except for #39, The Stone Bridge, a friend's dream, which Perec grouped with a few other such).

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THE STONE BRIDGE: by JL; 1968, as told to Georges Perec; a surreal, haiku-ish dreamlet. Dream #39
A stone bridge, at the crossing of a road and a river. A signal sign indicates the name of the place: (YOU)...
ILLUSION: by Georges Perec; December 1968, a prose-poem of a nested false-waking dream. Dream #4
I am dreaming. She's beside me. I tell myself I'm dreaming. I wake. She really is beside me. Delirious joy. I embrace her. I wake...
FAREWELL: by Georges Perec; January 1969, a dream prose-poem of loss foreseen. Dream #6
Dream of a breakup I see coming but can't prevent, and the devastation it works on my lover...
THE ARREST: by Georges Perec; July 1970, a dream of .... huh? Dream #16
I am arrested in Tunisia, essentially for being Jewish, despite my pro-Palestinian sympathies.
My main regret: I face years of dirty socks...
INTRUDER: by Georges Perec; Feb. 1971, a dream unsure if it's warning, erotic, subliminal or psychic. Dream #50
Someone's broken in, prowling my apartment. Man or woman? The scent gives her away.
I wake, calling aloud "What is it?" Moments later, C. knocks on my door...
BREAD LIBERATION: by Georges Perec; March 1971, a dream of a lame revolution. Dream #60
Mobilization, war, troop transport, slogans, marching bands and orgies, all in an apotheosis of dough...
CAUTION: ENDS IN SEX
THE BONE: by Georges Perec; March 1971, a dream on vulnerability failing to teach empathy. Dream #64
The top of my skull pops off, exposing my vulnerable brain. But I replace it. Later, I crush a spider...
THE VENDOR: by Georges Perec; July 1971, a nightmare of societal amorality. Dream #77
I murder my wife. I try to sell her body as meat to a firm that'll turn her into wine.
But the transubstantiation has already happened, and the paperwork's undone...
CAUTION: GRISLY
THE HYPOTHALAMUS: by Georges Perec; October 1971, a dream of embarrassment. Dream #95
I learn my book A Void, supposedly written without the letter E, has lots of them--
crawling with errors. But at least I can spy on the neighbors...
THE CONDEMNATION: by Georges Perec; Feb. 1972, a dream of cults, persecution, and timeslip. Dream #105
I'm on vacation, but cultists lick my feet--then turn on me, casting stones. But they miss.
So I wander the steppe for centuries, until I come to the City of Texas...
THE PLAY: by Georges Perec; February 1972, a dream with the attention span of a gnat. Dream #108
I'm in a play. Fear, then joyful sex, then ranching, then silly hats, as a man drones on
about class struggle. Weird chairs, pingpong, coffee, impossible double utterances.
At last I tell friends my dream--backwards. Then I write the dream down on slices of cheese...
CAUTION: SEX ONSTAGE
THREE CATS: by Georges Perec; April 1972, a painful comic dreamlet. Excerpt from Dream #114
I go home. Our cat is there. And a small, striped new cat. Then I step on a third, much bigger cat.
This is just one cat too many! "This cat's not real!" I say...
The nonexistent cat leaps up and scratches my face.
A GENERAL HISTORY OF TRANSPORTATION (AN EXCERPT): by Georges Perec; April 1972, his Dream #115
Parking structures with spiral ramps are, secretly, screws harvesting motion from parking cars, slowly drilling
into near-impenetrable rock. Thus are skyscraper-foundations made...
THE DENUNCIATION: by Georges Perec; August 1972, a dream of war-trauma finally healing? Dream #124
1941. My dad and I are denounced to the SS. We're put in with monsters; I'm a snake or fish myself.
But the Nazis become a photo album, I go to a memorial, I cry, it's 1947, peace...
CAUTION: HOLOCAUST MEMORIES


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