This part had lots of digressions, discussions and explanations, as well as examples Freud used in The Interpretation of Dreams, tons of Magritte’s paintings (more that I included here), and some passages from SLF. If you’d like to know more, I encourage you to go forth and google (and refer to SLF).
Photo by Angel Huertas
Now, why call it “translation” and not transcription? Perhaps you are familiar with the concept of language as a social agreement: there is nothing natural about it. We learn it growing up as a means for communication, but there is a wide gap between sensory perception and language.
From Introduction to General Linguistics by Ferdinand de Saussure
Rene Magritte – Collective Invention
Signifiers (words, whether spoken or written) are common among members of society, yet signifieds (meanings or conceptual images) are subjective.
Rene Magritte – Clear Ideas
The process of becoming overwhelmed by sensory images is very similar to recalling dreams, or to dreaming itself.We normally have little to no control over what we dream; we might enjoy a dream, or we might be shocked or disgusted by it.
Henri Fuseli – The Nightmare
If we decide to tell someone about a dream we’ve had, we normally have to really try to put events in order, to make sense out of a sequence of sensory images that would otherwise not make any. We might also change the events as they occurred because they are too disturbing to recall.Most of the time, objects and characters in our dreams are not recognizable, yet, when awake, we try hard to associate them with images from our conscious memory, sometimes changing the memory of the dream altogether.
Henri Fuseli – Queen Katherine’s Dream
The prose pieces in the second chapter of SLF are not, as you may have noticed, by definition, stories. They are poetic prose, because situations and conflicts are hard to determine. Like many poems, they exist out of time and space because they consist, mainly, of metaphors. They are all dreams recalled while I was awake, and they were my best attempt at weaving pieces of images together so that they would have some kind of logical sequence (for my readers as well as myself).The process of writing poetry and writing poetic prose are not too different: they are both a recollection of visions, through sensory perception, that need some kind of conversion from image to text. Sometimes intentions and thoughts (in other words, ideas) were unclear when recalling the dream, in which cases I had to consciously add details that were not provided in the dream itself.
For example, “Daisy” is followed by a separate text, “Recollection.”
In the dream “Daisy,” which happened so many years ago now, I still remember my thoughts and emotions in the dream. In my dream, the girl was the embodiment of the flower…
The naked girl was a daisy, not visually, since she had a human(esque) shape. But the images of a daisy and this girl were simultaneous. As I transcribed the dream, explaining this seemed like too much trouble for the reader, so I settled for similes involving different flowers as an attempt to be understood. There is no signifier for the actual dream image of a girl-daisy, so translation through logical language (the similes) seemed necessary.
However, in retrospect, perhaps the girl’s lack of emotional expression had a lot to do with her being a plant. A fresh, cheerful looking daisy communicating no empathy whatsoever. And also the fact that plants are naturally naked…
In that same dream, I was suffering anxiety upon learning that “my image was to be desecrated” – I know much deeper, psychological interpretations may be given to this dream, which may be completely valid (though I don’t remember what I was experiencing in my life when I had this dream)… but my main association upon remembering the dream, then and now, was related to computers and, possibly, web design and the attachment I had to my html files.
The line: “every fiber of my flesh was disintegrating, blinking horrifically in pixels of colors I could only see in codes. […]” in this context, sounds less horrific… but the truth is, as a teenager, I spent hours upon hours a day designing personal websites that, at that time, I considered works of art. Dreaming in codes, (black letters, numbers, and symbols on a white screen) was commonplace and sometimes frustrating. I had lived the nightmare of losing all my files once, where the screen became pixelated and in the color codes in the “story” (yellow, cyan, fuchsia, black, white and red – I don’t need to check the codes I wrote in the text because I remember very well what this screen looks like). It happened when I was 15 (it was my mother’s computer, but it was I who sat in front of it hours on end) and I have avoided that (living) nightmare ever since. It seems like a trivial thing to worry about, but the nightmare is a symptom of a real trauma. In this dream, my work on my computer and my vision of self were one.
In the next dream, “Recollection” – which is possibly the same dream, a nightmare from I did not wake, but slipped from and into another sequence.
It is a reconciliation of a lost identity with a regained one. One of confusion that does not depend on concrete evidence, but on memory, even if a faulty one. Whether or not the poets I mentioned were actually mentioned by name, and whether or not the poetry I recited was poetry I had memorized from my waking life and not dream-babble, is irrelevant.
And whether or not these anxieties, the specific ones I mentioned about a computer breaking down and losing all files, hence losing one’s created identity, as well as the ones the dream sequence suggests – persecution, being lost and obliterated, then regaining composure and recalling identity in a particular way, reveal anything about me as a writer or person, should also be irrelevant. I like to think the images are about a universal experience among human beings, no a particular experience based on a memory. However, in the same way we decode symbols in poetry, we decode symbols in dreams: images not obviously tied to their literal meaning, but a meaning extracted through an exercise of subjective association.
In Freud’s words, “That which is obviously the essential content of the dream-thoughts need not be represented at all in the dream. The dream is, as it were, centred elsewhere; its content is arranged about elements which do not constitute the central point of the dream-thoughts.”
To put it another way, we must decode and make an effort to interpret – to translate – what sensory images paired with emotions, as remembered from our dreams, mean to us (or to your psychoanalyst). Then we re-code them in language (thus, translating).
Rene Magritte – The Lost Jockey
As I mentioned before, what is important in dream interpretation is not so much the physical aspects of the dream, but the psychological relationships with these aspects (either of the reader, or the dreamer). Much like considering Magritte’s titles when we look at his paintings. The image is secondary to the title, which gives the image an entirely different dimension, open to interpretation. In this case, the image is the dream content and the title, the dream thought.