The Dream, written by Ivan Turgenev in the late 19th century (the precise date is unknown), is a short story bordering on a novella and my first read of 2021. Turgenev is my favourite writer, which really doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone, and I couldn’t imagine starting a new year with any other author. Over the past few years I have been making my way through his completed works and so far have read 20 of his books/short stories. It definitely will be something I will continue throughout this year. Although he and I are as different as two people can be I constantly find ways to relate to his stories time and time again.
The Dream is an experimental tale that isn’t what most people would think is a something written by a Russian writer in the 19th century. It has elements of the oriental and the supernatural which was a common theme in Turgenev’s later in life work and can only be described as the written word version of a mysterious fog. It is quite similar in tone to another of his short stories, A Song of Love Triumphant, which is also a slightly terrifying oriental story about two friends that he dedicated to his real life closest friend – Gustave Flaubert.
The Dream opens with the unnamed narrator giving the reader background about his life so far and his mother and their at times complicated relationship. His father passed away when he was 7 and he and his mother live a secluded life with two servants. The narrator has vivid dreams and dreams of a mysterious man in a dark cloak with black eyes who he thinks is his father (not the same man who he grew up with knowing as his father). It later is revealed there were dark circumstances surrounding his conception. The story doesn’t end with any sort of finality and is left rather open ended but I think that is where Turgenev excelled.
All in all The Dream is a great little story packed with mystery and suspense and charm. I’d definitely recommend it for anyone who likes Russian literature in general or short stories.