Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Konwicki offers an existential view of postwar Poland in which no one knows how to contemplate happiness. Although Paul and his coworkers build railroad tracks leading away from the village, there is no escape. No trains even appear until the end of the novel. While A Dreambook for Our Time presents political criticism of Poland under Communism, the characters are imprisoned, as much as by anything else, by their weaknesses. They represent the despair of modernity, as well as of twentieth century Europe.

A sense of doom pervades the novel. The impending flood is but the latest uncontrollable event to uproot the characters. Something bad is always about to happen, and once it occurs, some other problem will follow. Every event in the characters’ lives underscores the futility of finding lasting happiness, the impossibility of sharing one’s life. Neither Christian nor romantic love seems to work. Nevertheless, Konwicki considers the search for meaning and understanding admirable; Paul admits that he does not understand how people live, but he persists in trying to find out despite his alienation from them.

The need for political, social, and personal order is emphasized throughout A Dreambook for Our Time. Paul says that their lives are “the result of our getting a handful of playing cards and then to the end we shuffle and rearrange them, seeking order and meaning.” During the war, Paul crumples a piece of paper...

(The entire section is 466 words.)