I will be away from the computer for a few days, so this post ends the week. I will be back Tuesday, when I will begin a long – perhaps endless – investigation of Adalbert Stifter’s tedious 1857 masterpiece Der Nachsommer (Indian Summer). So come back for that. Hoo boy.
Meanwhile, a final note on the dream theme.
Gyula Krúdy’s The Adventures of Sindbad is a collection of story-like textual objects, published between 1911 and 1917*, that could at times be mistaken for dreams. The title character, a Hungarian with a nickname stolen from The Arabian Nights although he is more of a Casanova type, is alternately a youth, three hundred years old, dead, a ghost, resurrected, a spring of mistletoe, and so on. Sometimes this is part of the story, other times just casual Surrealism, dream-stuff. Sindbad is always in pursuit of a woman, or sometimes revisiting a former lover, which provides the theme and variations for the set of stories: lost love, lost passion, lost youth. Or as Krúdy puts it near the end of the book, “the arts of dreaming, chivalry and sensibility” (174).
This passage feels typical to me, but is not particularly dream-like:
He imagined himself wandering aimlessly in a foreign city, bundles of unopened mail waiting for him at the hotel. He couldn’t bear to pronounce the woman’s name because the effort cost him such physical pain it flooded through him from head to foot so that the thermometer beneath his arm showed a distinct rise, and whenever he found himself alone and took out her picture it was such delicious agony he had to rest his head on his arm. “How marvellous it was to love her,” he wrote on a scrap of paper then dropped it into the Danube. (188)
That thermometer is what I meant by casual Surrealism. I do not see any other context for it. The last sentence is a kind of Romantic parody that is one of Krúdy’s modes. On the next page, a woman packs for a romantic getaway – her luggage consists of several volumes of Hungarian poetry, a human skull, and:
“Oh, and I mustn’t forget my pistol,” muttered Mrs. Bánatvári in that voice so often adopted by faint, expensive, dreamy women. (189)
Now I think I am making the book sound funnier than it mostly is. The list of things Sindbad likes (102-3) shows another mood – “snowdrifts and women’s legs,” “[l]eaves in the park in autumn, blotched as if with blood,” “wooing complete strangers in highland towns,” and “lies, illusions, fictions, and imagination.” Hey, me too!
To be honest, a problem with, or feature of, Krúdy’s stories is that although full of images and sentences that on inspection seem memorable, the disassociated form, whether dream-like or absurdist or just very free, makes the details and stories dang hard to remember. But the contact with them was pleasant.
I read the old Central European Classics edition, not the NYRB version, but they are the same book, translated by the culture hero George Szirtes. Szirtes says Krúdy wrote “some fifty novels, some three thousand stories,” etc. What, what? And to think people are amazed by how much Balzac or Trollope wrote.
* The Sindbad stories were not all collected into a book until 1944, or so the publication information suggests. What did it take to publish a book in Hungary in 1944?