Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Tadeusz Konwicki’s early fiction was in the Socialist Realist vein dominant in postwar Poland, but with novels such as this one, he helped lead Polish literature into more ambitious spheres. The experimental qualities of A Dreambook for Our Time can be seen primarily in its fragmented structure. Paul’s life in the present is interrupted by flashbacks to his past, but these earlier events do not occur in chronological order: Paul’s period with the guerrillas, for example, comes before his expulsion from the Home Army. There are flashbacks within flashbacks, a method which helps to emphasize the chaos of war and the characters’ turmoil. Since there is no pattern to the history of Poland, a seemingly random structure is fitting for a novel attempting to capture the essence of life in that country.

A Dreambook for Our Time is frequently described by critics as surrealistic and nihilistic. The former quality results from Konwicki’s slight distortion of reality as the best means of depicting the everyday nightmares of life in the twentieth century. The charge of nihilism seems inaccurate, since Konwicki’s characters rarely give up on life despite the diminishing possibilities they encounter.