Dream Story

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Title page of Traumnovelle, Berlin 1926
AuthorArthur Schnitzler
Original titleTraumnovelle
TranslatorJ.M.Q. Davies
PublisherS. Fischer Verlag
Publication date
1926 (orig. German)
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages128 pp (Eng. trans. paperback edition)
ISBN0-14-118224-5 (Eng. trans. paperback edition)

Rhapsody: A Dream Novel, also known as Dream Story (German: Traumnovelle), is a 1926 novella by the Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler. The book deals with the thoughts and psychological transformations of Doctor Fridolin over a two-day period after his wife confesses having had sexual fantasies involving another man. In this short time, he meets many people who give clues to the world Schnitzler creates. This culminates in the masquerade ball, a wondrous event of masked individualism, sex, and danger for Fridolin as the outsider.

It was first published in installments in the magazine Die Dame between December 1925 and March 1926. The first book edition appeared in 1926 in S. Fischer Verlag and was adapted in 1999 into the film Eyes Wide Shut by director-screenwriter Stanley Kubrick and co-screenwriter Frederic Raphael.

The book belongs to the period of the Decadent movement in Vienna after the turn of the 20th century.


Dream Story is set in early-20th-century Vienna. The protagonist of the story is Fridolin, a successful 35-year-old doctor who lives with his wife Albertina (also translated as Albertine) and their young daughter.

One night, Albertina confesses that the previous summer, while they were on vacation in Denmark, she had a sexual fantasy about a young Danish military officer. Fridolin then admits that during that same vacation he had been attracted to a young girl on the beach. Later that night, Fridolin is called to the deathbed of an important patient. Finding the man dead, he is shocked when the man's daughter, Marianne, professes her love to him. Restless, Fridolin leaves and begins to walk the streets. Although tempted, he refuses the offer of a young prostitute named Mizzi.

He encounters his old friend Nachtigall, who tells Fridolin that he will be playing piano at a secret high-society orgy that night. Intrigued, Fridolin procures a mask and costume and follows Nachtigall to the party at a private residence. Fridolin is shocked to find several men in masks and costumes and naked women with only masks engaged in various sexual activities. When a young woman warns him to leave, Fridolin ignores her plea and is soon exposed as an interloper. The woman then announces to the gathering that she will sacrifice herself for Fridolin, and he is allowed to leave.

Upon his return home, Albertina awakens and describes a dream she has had: While making love to the Danish officer from her sexual fantasies, she had watched without sympathy as Fridolin was tortured and crucified before her eyes. Fridolin is outraged because he believes that this proves his wife wants to betray him. He resolves to pursue his own sexual temptations.

The next day, Fridolin learns that Nachtigall has been taken away by two mysterious men. He then goes to the costume shop to return his costume and discovers that the shop-owner is prostituting his teenage daughter to various men. He finds his way back to where the orgy had taken place the previous night; before he can enter, he is handed a note addressed to him by name that warns him not to pursue the matter. Later, he visits Marianne, but she no longer expresses any interest in him. Fridolin searches for Mizzi, the prostitute, but is unable to find her. He reads that a young woman has been poisoned. Suspecting that she is the woman who sacrificed herself for him, he views the woman's corpse in the morgue but cannot identify it.

Fridolin returns home that night to find his wife asleep, with his mask from the previous night set on the pillow on his side of the bed. When she wakes, Fridolin confesses all of his activities. After listening quietly, Albertina comforts him. Fridolin says that it never will happen again, but Albertina tells him not to look too far into the future, and the important thing is that they survived through their adventures.

The story ends with them greeting the new day with their daughter.


English translations[edit]

  • 2004, USA, Green Integer ISBN 1-931243-48-4, Pub date 1 July 2004, paperback (Eng. trans)
  • 2004, UK, Penguin Books ISBN 0-14-118224-5, Pub date 6 August 2004, paperback (Eng. trans. by J.M.Q. Davies)


External links[edit]