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Che fanno gli Inglesi?

Dreamed 1917/7/30 by William Archer


William Archer was a playwright and critic in the early 20th Century who based one hit play (The Green Goddess) on a dream. In On Dreams (1935) he challenged Freud's claim that every dream censors repressed wishes. Archer felt many dreams are largely chance, momentary influences, and simply the mind at play. To prove it, he quoted dozens of his own dreams, and challenged Freud to make Freudian sense of them.

We wish Freud good luck. Sketches by Chris Wayan of scenes from a dream by William Archer: a king, a baker, maps of Norway and Iran, a mountain, a quagga, a flying figure, and a man riding a landslide.


I had agreed to give a reading at some sort of Italian religious service. I had selected a long extract from d'Annunzio called Che Fanno gli Iglesi? which I thought meant 'What are the Churches doing?' (It is in reality a corruption of the title of a pamphlet by Mario Borsa, Che fanno gli Inglesi? [What are the English doing?])

I was discussing this selection of mine with some ladies unknown, when one of them said in a discouraging way, "You must not expect to draw much of a house," and I was distinctly annoyed with her for thinking I cared about drawing a house--I was doing the thing simply as a favour.

Then somehow the King of Italy came in and there was talk of the results of the war for Italy, how they had not made much advance on the Trentino, or towards Trieste, but had established themselves somewhere beyond the Adriatic--I suppose in Albania.

Then without any break that I am aware of, I was in Baluchistan, at a big hotel, and (as a piece of war work, I imagine) I was to learn baking. I was taken down into a large sort of subterranean place where a number of people were being taught.

A man weighed out a certain quantity of flour (but it was already dough) and gave it to another man beside me who was my actual instructor. He began to knead it and said to me, with a good deal of deference: "What do you think of this?" Then, noticing that I was not prepared on the spur of the moment with any comment on the experience, he added: "You can answer in Norwegian--I know the language quite well." Whereupon I replied: "Jeg hadde aldrig taenkt at bli' til bager i mine gamle dage." (I never thought of becoming a baker in my old age.) Then he insisted on carrying on the conversation in Norwegian, and I was pleased to find that I knew much more of the language than he did.

Presently I had wandered away from the bakery into a very picturesque cleft in the mountains. I walked in deep crisp turf alongside a high smooth wall of rock, encrusted with aromatic mosses and ferns. It seemed to radiate the heat of the sun, but only in a pleasant degree, and I thought how delightful it was. (As a matter of fact, the fresh clear air and the aroma of herbs was like what I have known in Norway, but not at all like anything I remember in Baluchistan.) Soon I thought I was wandering rather far afield and might perhaps be snapped up, or killed, by wild natives.

Just as I made up my mind to turn, two animals appeared in the cleft, which I thought at first were deer, but on closer inspection they proved to be quaggas!

To get back to the hotel, I had to descend some rocky slopes, and I rose in the air and floated down them. I thought: "Of course flying is all nonsense. It is only in dreams you have that experience. But here I am in real life floating downwards with perfect ease."

I alighted on a sort of architectural pinnacle or canopy, belonging to the outbuildings of the hotel. It was at the top of a long flight of steps, but as soon as I landed on it, it began to glide downwards. I thought it was quite right--was what it was made to do--but that my weight was dangerously increasing its momentum, and that some people I saw walking down the stairs would be crushed.

However, nothing fatal happened--only at the bottom of the flight of steps the masonry, with me upon it, crashed through some high iron railings surrounding the hotel, and landed quite safely in a deep area. The hotel servants were very polite and seemed to think this manner of arriving quite a matter of course.

I reflected that I hadn't learnt much baking that day, but resolved to be more diligent next day...

LISTS AND LINKS: dream humor - more wise career advice in dreams - language - equines (including zebras and quaggas) - flying - lucid dreams (though I guess this is an anti-lucid dream) - crash! - surrealism - dreams about Sigmund Freud - more William Archer

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