Britain's first book blogger (November 2000)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Between night and day

On a Monday morning soon after sleep I wrote out a fragment of a dream. Its violence and purity provoked an impulse to record. Why was this apparent non-event so much more vital and haunting than the remote disturbances of consciousness? It's a question such writing asks between night and day.

The hope is that violence and purity will emerge in the scribbled commentary; words containing, as Beckett put it, "the integrity of the eyelids coming down before the brain knows of grit in the wind". However, once written, the breeze dies; estrangement from the purity of the dream is indistinguishable from that of the day. Conscious narrative can only reinstate the uncertainty that the dream itself terminated. In writing, experience enters the realm of possibility rather than actuality; only asking remains. This must be why I feel no pressure to write out lived experience nor to reproduce the dream narrative here; that is, no wish to make an object subject to interpretation. Perhaps actuality is the termination of objects.

What was written was interpreted. Rather than the written dream revealing a Freudian cliché of unconscious desire, the purity, I realised, was a product of the dream's dramatisation of two or more contradictory impulses and their distillation into one. For this reason, it was an event that it could never play out in actual existence. To make the truth known, it had to be a lived fiction. Conscious existence seems lesser because it cannot maintain itself without contradiction. No wonder there was an urge to record the dream. And while it could be said only the individual who dreamt could appreciate the urgency of the revelation, a dream also means this: the end of individuality.

There is an added consequence: dream writing, as a means of responding to the pure work of sleep, thereby becomes a form of literary criticism. However one writes out one's recollection of the dream, it is already a commentary, already an idea of the thing, an act of reception, not the thing itself. The primary event itself resists repetition. Yet the primary event, the pure work, is not the real thing either. The real thing takes its course and we are left to respond in the stillness of midnight. The dream's actuality is the actuality of art; writing upon writing.

2 comments:

  1. After reading the above I've been inspired to write a piece called Graham Greene's dream diary
    http://poet-in-residence.blogspot.com/2009/07/graham-greenes-dream-diary.html
    I'm eagerly looking forward to your part2

    gwilym

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's good to have you back.

    ReplyDelete

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