A Dreambook for Our Time opens with Paul’s attempted suicide. He thinks that he can no longer live with his guilt and despair. He feels guilty for his mother’s arrest by the Nazis and her subsequent death, for his accidental killing of a young comrade he mistook for a German, for surviving the war when so many of his friends and countrymen did not, for his failure and that of his society to live up to their potential. He has seen too much death, too many broken promises. Tormented by his memories, he sees his past in the often-accusing faces around him: “I look for meanings everywhere. Every face I see grows over with the thicket of memory. I shall never extricate myself from it.” While the villagers can find some respite in religion, Paul cannot: “I don’t need a faith from outside. I want to find peace in myself.” Tadeusz Konwicki offers little hope of his character’s ever finding it.
Paul is an idealist who has lost all of his ideals. Count Pac tells him, “You wanted to set the world right, make people happy. You swallowed any amount of these ideas, and they’ve eaten you up inside. Only have to touch you with one finger, and you all fall apart, like rot.” Paul’s decay is presented as that of Poland. He fought the Nazis and the Soviets to preserve his country’s integrity. Then he joined the Communist Party, only to be disillusioned.
Paul thinks that if he confronts Joseph Car his torment might be somewhat...
(The entire section is 553 words.)