Literature

André Breton’s “Nadja”

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“She calls herself Nadja, she says, ‘because in Russian it’s the beginning of the word hope, and because it’s only the beginning.”

Breton André, Nadja, p.66

Nadja is a book I wanted to read since this summer after reading a critique Simone De Beauvoir wrote concerning the ways in which women are portrayed in literature. Well this was actually the second reason why I was so eager to read it as the first was that the title of the book -and the main character of the book- is Nadja which actually reminds me of my own name, so I guess while reading I was also looking for similarities between her and me. I know it sounds silly but I believe that having this in mind, my attitude towards the book was different.

“Life is other than what one writes.”

Breton André, Nadja, p.71

Essentially, this book is a “love story” between the writer and a young woman who, as the title suggests, is called Nadja. As Breton is one of the most characteristic surrealist writers, the book has surrealistic elements and is created by blending autobiographical facts with memories and imagination. For those who are not used to reading these kind of texts it can be a little hard to follow the writer’s stream of thought as it continuously progresses. I found it quite tiring myself as I have to admit that concentration was necessary in order to keep pace with the names, the streets and the events occurring . As a result it took me a lot longer to read the book than expected due to lack of time and concentration.

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“André? André? … You will write a novel about me. I’m sure you will. Don’t say you won’t. Be careful; everything fades, everything vanishes. Something must remain of us…” Breton André, Nadja, p.100

 The book is divided in two parts, the first one is before the writer’s encounter with Nadja but it offers a mental tour in the streets of Paris during the 1920s. My edition of the book, which I strongly recommend, had pictures of several places the author describes, portraits of people he talks about and posters, giving a glimpse of what it would feel like living as Breton did. In my opinion, the second part of the book, where Nadja is actually introduced is a lot more interesting. Breton has a unique way of presenting her both through his eyes and her words that enchants the reader. In that case De Beauvoir was right, as Breton describes the female character as something unreachable that belongs to the fantasy word and exists in order to validate his existence.

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“A kiss is so quickly forgotten.” Breton André, Nadja, p.80

Generally I liked the book because it was a different love story, it was an unconventional one and as a result it was more interesting despite the “difficulties” of reading it. I believe that people who like modernism and surrealism will find it a lot easier to read. In addition the photos provided along with their explanations made me feel like I was part of Breton’s word and I must admit that I found his way of writing very interesting and intriguing at the same time. It is as if you are constantly in someone’s thoughts and by doing so you feel closer to the writer, especially in this case where there are autobiographical elements. Of course the original language is french but I read it in English so I must admit that probably the book is better in its original writting but I could definitely not handle surrealism and french. But for those who can and want to read something rather different from the “ordinary classics” Nadja is the ideal book.

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“Since you exist, as you alone know how to exist, it was perhaps not so necessary that this book should exist.” Breton André, Nadja, p.158
Literature

Arthur Schnitzler’s “Dream Story”

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“And no dream, he sighed quietly, is altogether a dream”

Schnitzler Arthur, Dream Story,p.87

Arthur Schnitzler’s Dream Story is a book I recently read, given to me by one of my friends. First of all I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of the book before, but I have seen Kubrick’s adaptation of the book, the film Eyes Wide Shut. Because of this film and my love for Kubrick in general, my friend told me about the book. I didn’t like the film very much, in comparison to other films by the same director. As for the book, I found it very different in comparison to the film but I was not crazy about it either.

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“For however much they might belong to one another heart and soul, they knew last night was not the first time they had  been stirred by a whiff of freedom, danger and adventure.”  Schnitzler Arthur,Dream Story p.3

The story is set in the early 20th century Vienna where we meet a couple, Fridolin and Albertine who appear to live a very satisfying life, almost dream-like until Albertine confesses to Fridolin that women, as well as men, have sexual fantasies. Fridolin even though being a doctor and having knowledge concerning psychology, is shocked because of his wife’s confession and throughout the book the reader experiences the character’s psychological transformations as well as his thoughts that appear to be as far as possible from logical thinking. His wife’s obviously true confession about women having sexual fantasies just as men, makes him feel the need to prove to her that other women are sexually attracted to him.

“He felt helpless and inept, and everything seemed to be slipping from his grasp; everything was becoming increasingly unreal, even his home, his wife, his child, his profession,his very identity, as he trudged on mechanically through the evening streets, turning things over in his mind”

Schnitzler Arthur,Dream Story, p.72

Being in a state where he can’t realise if he is dreaming or being actually awake he feels the need to hurt his wife by taking part in a weird masquerade based on sexual fantasies. At this point I must confess that, in relation to the film, the sexual tension is limited in the book as the emphasis is not put there but in the feelings and thoughts of the protagonist. When it comes to the film, Kubrick used the book only as a basis while trying to create a movie about sexual relations.

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“What about when one awoke from dreams,for example?Of course, there one could remember…But there were also surly dreams which one forgot completely, of which nothing remained but some mysterious aura; some obscure bemusement” Schnitzler Arthur, Dream Story,p.73

“Curious how, seduced by words, again and again one labels and condemns people, destinies and streets through sheer idle force of habit”

Schnitzler Arthur, Dream Story,p.73

It is not one of the books I would read again but it was easy to read and quite simple really, so it didn’t bore or tire me.It did put me into thinking concerning relationships, as it depicts how easily a marriage can be ruined even by suspicion or if you chose to see it otherwise, how people keep their relationships just because they don’t want to admit that they are unhappy or unsatisfied, or even worse they choose not to see what is right in front of them just because they fear being alone.

“I think we should be grateful to fate that we’ve emerged safely from these adventures-both from the real ones and from those we dreamed about”

Schnitzler Arthur, Dream Story,p.87

 The edition of the book I read is: Schnitzler, Arthur. Dream Story. Trans. J.M. Q, Davies. Great Britain: Penguin Classics, 2016. Print. Pocket Penguin.