Marco Candida – Dream Diary
Some people remember their dreams. Some people don't, or they say they don't dream at all. Some people have lucid dreams and some have recurring dreams they visit nightly, or weekly, or monthly, or yearly. Some people have nightmares and they know it and they refuse to continue dreaming them – and they wake. Some people can't help their nightmares and their intensity is enough to cause tears, scratching, thrashing, vomiting. Dreaming is, in short, a vastly different affair for each individual, and its effects aren't properly known. Marco Candida's Dream Diary (trans. Elizabeth Harris) is, in my experience, a unique story in that it attempts to recount dreams and the act of dreaming without itself descending into a kind of diaphonous, guazy, vague collection of loosely described actions. This is a concrete story, well-anchored in strong imagery and surprisingly clear and coherent considering its subject matter.
The narrator has been working on a dream diary for some time. Quite fittingly, the story opens with the narrator mentioning he wishes to “get back to what I was talking about in the first place”, posing the primary problem of dreams in the first sentence of the story – they begin in media res, though that isn't always clear as they are occurring. Dreams are, or at least they are for me, a slice from an ongoing story, the plot of which I am aware and can remember, but on waking up and reflecting, does not make sense and (obviously) isn't real. I'm dumped somewhere in the middle, act out my piece, and then the dream ends, which is exactly how Dream Diary begins. We are thrown into the middle, caught up in a story being told that we don't know and can't properly place, and then the reality of the story shatters and shifts:
in the dream room, every single thing breathes in and breathes out. Every object in the room is swelling and shrinking, swelling and shrinking, systematically – swelling and shrinking every few seconds... and something else is happening besides: everything is oozing some sort of fluid that's – how to put it? - that's greasy.
The story moves fluidly from the narrator's memory of his dream on April 6, 2006, and his thoughts concerning the meaning of that specific dream, and of dreams themselves. Any study of dreams naturally turns to the question of time and motion, and how our perception of these affect our understanding of place, experience and the continuity of our life.
Time is even more nonexistent than space: consider how often we speak about time with words about space: // a stretch of time //, //an expanse of time//, //a length of time//, and so on. Or else we personify time; faced with time, we become animists: we say //time passes//, //time flies//, //times heals//, and so on.
The dreams themselves are nightmarish and nostalgic, mixing the everyday with the frightening in a way that seem simultaneously artificial and organic. Candida himself notes that in a dream, a peaceful valley might suddenly shift from beautiful to sinister when the dreamer realises that the bridge he is about to cross is the very same bridge he saw when out walking a few days ago. It's these innocuous touches that both turn a dream into a nightmare, and make the dreamer aware they are dreaming. Candida couples these frightening visions with deeply nostalgic fragments taken from a past the reader doesn't know but the dreamer does, understanding the memories in such an intimate manner that they require no context to be recognised. These broken pieces of half-remembered dreams sit comfortably – comfortably! - alongside Candida's narrator's rumination on the nature and purpose of dreaming and how they affect the waking life of the dreamer as much as their dreams.
Candida's narrator discusses time and plot in an abstract manner in an almost essayistic tone; while his comments upon plot and characterisation are funneled through the swirling, shifting chaos of his dreams. Dream Diary is a critique on the concept of story telling wrapped up in a story; it is an attempt to examine the architecture of a story from within the medium. Tolstoy, writing about Anna Karenina, commented that his story revolved around a key point, and that much of his writing and editing was spent in hiding that point from the author. His theory was that if the tools of the writer were visible, then they had failed. Candida sits on the opposite side of the spectrum. His story has its scaffolding intact, the story is about their erection and the function they form not just in Dream Diary but in any story, from written pieces such as novels and short stories, to oral stories and, of course, to dreams.
Dream Diary by Marco Candia is a short story from the Dalkey Archive Press' anthology, Best European Fiction 2011
Other stories from the Dalkey Archive Press' anthology, Best European Fiction 2011, include:
---United Kingdom: Welsh: Roberts, Wiliam Owen - The Professionals
---United Kingdom: British: Mantel, Hilary - The Heart Fails Without Warning
---Turkish: Üldes, Ersan - Professional Behaviour
---Swiss: Stefan, Verena - Doe a Deer
---Spanish: Catalan: Ibarz, Mercé - Nela and the Virgins
---Spanish: Castilian: Vila-Matas, Enrique - Far From Here
---Slovenian: Jančar, Drago - The Prophecy
---Serbian: Arsenijević, Vladimir - One Minute: Dumbo's Death
---Russian: Gelasimov, Andre - The Evil Eye
---Romanian: Teodorovici, Lucian Dan - Goose Chase
---Portuguese: Tavares, Gonçalo M. - Six Tales
---Polish: Tokarczuk, Olga - The Ugliest Woman in the World
---Norwegian: Grytten, Frode - Hotel by a Railroad
---Netherlands: Uphoff, Manon - Desire
---Montenegrin: Spahić, Ognjen - Raymond is No Longer with Us – Carver is Dead
---Moldovan: Ciocan, Iulian - Auntie Frosea
---Macedonian: Minevski, Blaže - Academician Sisoye's Inaugural Speech
---Lithuanian: Kalinauskaitė, Danutė - Just Things
Index of titles by The Dalkey Archive Press under review
Index of short stories under review
David J Single
Links kindly provided by The Dalkey Archive Press' anthology, Best European Fiction 2010
Il Club degli Autori
Ellin Selae Associazione Letteraria
The Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities
Il Primo Amore