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Dreamed March 1971 by Georges Perec

It must be P. who, while stroking my head, which is bald--my hair is only a sort of wig or mask--notices that my "frontal" bone (that is, a bone that covers the top of the skull like the cover of a soup tureen, but flatter, barely rounded) is moving.

This frightens me at first.

Mind the fontanels, which might not be fully bound yet even after so long!

Then I check for myself. Passing my thumbnails along the edge of the bone, I barely need to apply pressure for the bone (like the case of my alarm clock or the battery cover on my radio) to come loose and go rolling around on the floor.

I can see my cortex.

I pick up my bone and put it back in place. I begin to worry again, more and more, about the chance of infection. Later, I dare to move my head and my bone does not fall, which is reassuring.

I'm glad to know it's just a dream.

/ /

I am in Dampierre, in my old room. There are spider webs everywhere.

I begin to suit up to leave on motorcycle. I pick up my shoes. They're full of spider webs and tiny droppings, like little grains of wheat or lentils. On the sole is a large spider, which I eventually crush.


This is Dream No.64 from Perec's La Boutique Obscure: 124 Dreams, translated from the French by Daniel Levin Becker. Perec's famous for word- and mind-games; his best known novel, A Void, omits the letter E--as the title, elliptically, typically, warns. So beyond the hazards of double translation (dream to page, French to English) note what is not said.

According to his preface, the sign / / indicates text in his original dream journal has been omitted. So the spider episode isn't just there for completeness; he intentionally juxtaposed these two nonconsecutive acts. Georges' vulnerable brain was spared, but he learns no mercy; he crushes the vulnerable spider on his shoe and his edit rubs our noses in it.

Is he saying "Dreams are callous"? "People are callous"? Or "I'm callous"? You decide.

--Chris Wayan

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