The Facts of Winter

Paul Poissel, Les Faits D’Hiver (The Facts of Winter) Translated with an afterward by Paul La Farge (San Francisco: McSweeney’s, 2011)

Poissel - Les Faits D'Hiver
In college, I minored in French. I never learned to speak the language, but I became relatively good at reading and writing. I was a philosophy major, so it made sense for me to read philosophy. I read 20th century philosophers such as Sartre and Camus, but I never mastered French literature. I didn’t read much poetry at all. Over the years since those days, my French vocabulary has faded, but I like to try to read a little from time to time. So, being on vacation, I thought it would be a good time to pick up a little French. This small volume from McSweeney’s seemed perfect. It is a collection of the descriptions of 45 dreams, most only a few paragraphs long. Each is printed in French on the left hand side and in English translation on the right hand side.

The experience was, to say the least, surrealistic. Reading the fictional dreams of fictional persons in a language I do not fully understand, left all sorts of images in my mind. I wasn’t always clear which were inherent in Poissel’s writing and which were the product of my limited understanding of the language.

La Farge’s afterward grants insight into the dreams and tells a bit of the story of Poissel. This is such a fun read that I know I will return to it again and again. So far, I can’t see any impact of the book on my dreams, but as soon as I start dreaming in French, I’ll check the book for clues.