Fridolin, a doctor, and his wife, Albertine, have been married for a few years and are the parents of a much adored little girl. In a moment of unusual frankness, they decide to confess all their temptations and adventures to one another. Albertine admits that she deeply desired a blond Dane encountered in the previous summer. Fridolin professes to welcome this news and tells of similar attractions. They promise to confide the sexual adventures of their waking and dreaming states.

But Fridolin is not at ease. The idea that his wife desired another-even in a dream-inspires a jealous energy that sends him in search of adventures that will reassure him of his own desirability and hurt if not repudiate Albertine. On the pretext of a house call, he wanders, masked and unmasked, through the decadent private clubs and cafés of night-time Vienna. He toys with the dismal daughter of a patient, an "unspoiled" prostitute, and a sophisticated matron--none of whom he actually claims, all of whom remind him of his wife, one of whom dies, he believes, in protecting him.

Uncertain if his adventure was reality or dream, he returns with tenderness to Albertine, although he has repeatedly vowed to leave her. He tells his entire story; she listens with better grace than he would have done. Then he asks what they should do. She replies that they should be grateful to have "emerged safely from these adventures" . . . "neither the reality of a single night nor even of a person's entire life can be equated with the full truth about his innermost being." "And no dream," he responds "is altogether a dream." (p. 98-9). They begin another day.


A surreal exploration of the most intimate dimensions of marriage. Fridolin's sincere curiosity about his wife's sexuality can scarcely withstand his jealousy and wounded narcissism. Schnitzler seems to ask how two intelligent, attractive, sentient people can share a bed, a child, and a life for years on end when erotic yearnings elsewhere are inevitable. The answer seems to lie in a balance of secrets between strangers. "Never inquire into the future" advises Albertine (p. 99); yet their willingness to probe each other's fantasies both past and present make their marriage unusual. But whether the originality makes it stronger or closer to collapse is not clear.

A controversial figure in his own time, Schnitzler was raised into a Jewish middle class family. In his practice of medicine, he leaned toward psychiatry and is said to have anticipated many of Freud's ideas about sexuality. Married and the father of two, he was notorious for his insatiable pursuit of younger women. Already suspected of lax morality, his work was further condemned by the Nazi regime after his death. The editor, Raphael, contends that Dream Story is true to Schnitzler's personal life and times; he speculates that it was written well before 1918 and failed to find a publisher until 1926. It was the basis for Stanley Kubrick's film, Eyes Wide Shut (1999).


First published: 1926. Translated by J. M. Q. Davies; introduced by Frederic Raphael who co-wrote the screenplay for Eyes Wide Shut with its director, Stanley Kubrick (pp. v-xvii).



Place Published

Harmondsworth, U.K.




Frederic Raphael

Page Count