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My Father’s Dreams: A Tale of Innocence Abused by Evald Flisar

My Father’s Dreams: A Tale of Innocence Abused
by Evald Flisar

translated by the author, with Alan McConnell-Duff;
introductions by Karl Young and Susan Smith Nash

$14  paperback
2003, 200 pages, 8.2 x 5.5

ISBN: 978-0964183773

Available through Amazon.com or directly from Texture Press.

Praise for My Father’s Dreams: A Tale of Innocence Abused

One of the most chilling characteristics of Flisar’s new novel is the technique whereby the reader is allowed to know and see more than the first-person narrator: to see the story behind the story ... One is often tempted to warn the fourteen-year-old hero, ‘Adam, don’t believe your father, can’t you see what he is doing?’... Descriptions are so visual that we often get the feeling we are watching a movie in which we are served a new twist before recovering from the previous one, while at the same time seeing, smelling, hearing and feeling every detail. The reader’s enjoyment is almost voyeuristic, and the book is difficult to put down, unpredictable to the last page ... Reading it is like looking into a mirror in which, next to Adam, Eve, father and mother, we soon discover our own face...”
                                             —Metka Peserl, VECER (Literary Supplement)

“... It is humor and occasional irony, even self-irony, mocking the traditional Slavonic seriousness, that is the hallmark of Flisar’s style. Because over the years he has polished it to a high degree of mastery, stylistically My Father’s Dreams probably surpasses even his legendary cult novel, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. We can feel this as much in the melody of his sentences as in the way he builds the demanding and complicated narrative structure, within which the real and the dream sequences are presented very convincingly, even in the case of the most unusual images ... It is this union of the individual and universal, speaking about the fate of one person yet surpassing his personal story, which thus becomes the reader’s story, by which we recognize literature as the art of the words...
                                             —Josip Osti, Review 2000

“Precisely and sharply, with an enviable economy of stylistic devices, Flisar presents the reader with a half-dreamlike world of fourteen-year-old Adam ... This topsy-turvy world of illusions and hopes, in which Flisar plays with the function of dreaming, is spiced with unusual and original grotesque overtones ... With masterful strokes, Flisar weaves the episodes of his story into an eccentric bildungsroman-in-reverse, moves the action from one mental or emotional state to another, and resolves it with a dream vision ... My Father’s Dreams is thus a fascinatingly multi-layered tale, which, with its many meanings, explores different themes and resolves them with unusual silences and telling digressions...”
                                             —Igor Bratož, Delo (Literary Supplement)

“Flisar’s best work so far? It’s not that the author’s previous novels had not been persuasive and skillfully written, or that his imagery had not charmed and impressed the reader. But evidently it is possible to go even further and discover a narrative mechanism which works strictly within the framework of fiction and creates with fantastic effectiveness the synchronicity of ideas and images, thoughts and emotions ... The dream material is richly differentiated, the descriptions are luxuriously sensual, poetic, morbid, prophetic, archetypal, erotic, hellish, heavenly ... All the way to the moment of final reckoning, when everything turns cruelly real ... The exuberant imagery of Adam’s dreams turns out to be the most reliable seismograph of reality. The dynamics of unconscious truthfulness, which Veyne ascribes to dream-forming, poetic and myth-creating energies, confers the advantage of telling important truths without paying any particular attention to them...”
                                             —Lucija Stepancic, Contemporary Review

“Probably the most complicated dimension that will attract and even obsess the reader is Adam’s dreams. They are presented as a field of the unconscious, a field of mysterious energies that can be neither controlled nor fully explored, and are supposed to be the source of human creativity, as well as our sexual traumas and evil tendencies ... I cannot remember anyone in the five centuries of Slovene literature ‘interiorizing’ dreams and forcing them into the reader’s consciousness in such a shocking form as Flisar has done in this novel ... Anyone reading this book with the necessary attention, concentrating on its essence, will be deeply unsettled, almost stunned...”
                                             —Jože Horvat, SODOBNOST (leading literary journal)

“The essence of narrative in this novel works through conflations of expectations based on nearly all available sources. Naturally, these can evoke a spectrum of responses that collide with each other. Perhaps the most basic modes of the story vacillate between blasphemy, rebellion, and introspection. If Flisar can provoke the reader to shift from Rabelaisian belly laughs to disgust with irrational authority to new takes on epistemology within a few sentences, he has accomplished something that many branches of 20th-century art have sought, often without success.”
                                             —Karl Young, Introduction, My Father’s Dreams

“Although Evald Flisar is well known in Slovenia for the best-selling novels that describe travels of hallucinatory intensity into new and newly-unfamiliar territories, I suspect the real audience for his fiction lies in the U.S., where the grotesque is an essential element of almost all narratives, whether tragi-comic, or simply tragic or comic. Flisar manages to excite a frisson of horror, accompanied by the titillating self-consciousness of a masterfully orchestrated spectacle. It is the purported truth of the narrative—presented as memoir or autobiography—that tears away any cushioning protective layer of artifice. As one reads Flisar, one becomes aware that any surrealism in the narrative is a far cry from such distant relatives as South American magical realism. South American magical realism tends to lose its bite as soon as one realizes the political allegory that creates its primary intellectual scaffolding. My Father’s Dreams violates the psyche precisely as the characters are violated. It is via one’s own trust and through the aggressive defense of one’s own innocence (or ignorance) that the violation occurs ... What we see in Flisar’s My Father’s Dreams is precisely what Edmund Burke defined as the sublime.”
                                             —Susan Smith Nash, Preface, My Father’s Dreams

And in the words of the author...

The author is fond of Paul Auster’s line, “The question is the story itself, and whether or not it means something is not for the story to tell...” The story, any story, should not be so much understood as absorbed and deeply felt ... Reading should be a sensual experience, not impeded by over-reasoning and approving or disapproving arguments ... Nevertheless, the author is highly amused by having his stories explained ... He believes that writing is a primary act of creation which is not a matter of negotiation with literary trends or theories, readers’ taste or the prevailing rules of fiction ... If we assume that the character of Abortus is the unborn half of ourselves, to which, in the hope of creating a semblance of unity, we read our “dream diaries” (perceptions of reality), the novel cannot avoid performing a similar function: it is a conversation with the aborted half of one’s human potential, a desire for making oneself whole.


My Father’s Dreams: A Tale of Innocence Abused, the controversial and shocking new novel by Slovenia’s bestselling author Evald Flisar, is regarded by many critics as his best. It can be read as an off-beat crime story, a psychological horror tale, a dream-like morality fable, or as a dark and ironic account of one man’s belief that his personality and his actions are two different things. It can also be read as a story about a boy who has been robbed of his childhood in the most cruel way imaginable: by being told by his father (out to protect his good name) that what he sees and hears is no more than a dream!

The reader gains almost voyeuristic pleasure from following the “dreams” of fourteen-year-old Adam on his path to ruin and redemption. In the words of one of the critics, Flisar’s descriptions are “luxuriously sensual, poetic, morbid, prophetic, archetypal, erotic, hellish, heavenly…” The book has the force of a myth; it is telling important truth without drawing any particular attention to it. It is telling a story about good and evil, and our inclination to be drawn to the latter. Not for the faint-hearted, and certainly not for those who are afraid to look into themselves.

Evald Flisar writes fiction, screenplays, plays, critical essays, and autobiography. His stage plays, radio plays, novels, travelogues and short stories have been translated into 20 languages. He is also an ardent supporter of new and established Slovenian writers, and has dedicated himself to the promotion of their work outside Slovenia. Flisar lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

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