Friday, 22 November 2013

Like A Midsummer Night's Dream

As a child I regularly browsed through my father's bookshelves in search of something interesting to read. Thus I came across quite a fair bit of what would be called advanced (adult) literature, including the works of Jan Wolkers, an (in)famous Dutch writer with a very distinct style and no interest in sticking to that which society considered to be 'proper'. His works and those of others still stick in my mind, having shaped me as a person from a young age. Most of these stories portrayed a very raw view of life, showing the highs of all that life has to offer but also the depths of decadence and decay, moving from sexual attraction to rage, from exultation to festering sickness, from the heights of passion to slow and agonizing death. They were both tantalizing and revolting, often at the same time.

One work of which I sadly do not recall the author or the exact title is essentially a modern variation on Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, which is in its bare essence an exploration of love and relationships. The author of this work took this core and made it an exploration of sexuality for a teenage boy, yet not in any way in a happy fashion. Without ever revealing which is the dream and which is the waking world the main character finds himself primarily in this world where he is the new owner of a mansion, which is being managed by a woman and her daughters. Little explanation is required for the love, passion and raw lust which forms there. Yet it's not what makes the story interesting.

At the height of any form of joy or pleasure the world around the main character begins to ripple and distort, with everything turning an ashen grey as voices vanish into a void, leaving him lying underneath the filthy blankets of a creaky bed, surrounded by the dirty, water-stained wallpaper on the walls of his tiny room. There are no sounds beyond a shrill whistling and that of his sobs. Thus the story moves between these two realities. These two dreams or nightmares, without ever truly waking up from either.

I'm reminded of this due to my current situation. The closer and more real the dream of a joyful life in Germany becomes, the stronger these ripples and distortions became, threatening to rip me out of the dream and putting me into a nightmare. Today my German boss went to view the apartment which I'll hopefully be renting come next month. After talking with him about it and seeing the videos and photos he made I'm feeling very positive about it. The thought of being surrounded by people who all care about me and with whom I could actually do fun things like going to events or hiking or... anything, it's something I have never quite experienced. Like a dream.

To someone who has never truly experienced the depths of true hell it's hard to imagine the immense dissonance which can exist between two realities. Recall the story of The Little Match Girl [1] and how she loses herself in her final happy dream. Reality is a relative thing and our feelings and memories are always there to betray and deceive us. It's what makes the story of the match girl so bitter-sweet. Had she been taken in by a family like in her dream it would have stopped being a dream and left unanswered the eternal question which one is left with after the final 'and she lived happily ever after'. Being whether it truly was happy and in the end she'd die anyway. Less tragically no doubt, but still.

Back on topic, I do not think that this flipping between realities is something which vanishes easily. I doubt somehow that even after I have been living in Germany for a year I won't still have times when I'm pulled back into the nightmare again, being forced to face everything in my life which I'd desperately like to forget or cause to stop existing. Like how the light causes shadows, so too will the nightmare never vanish. In the end neither reality is more real or fake than the other. They're just two extreme sides to the same reality.



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