Lensing Co-Edits Arthur Schnitzler’s Dream Journal

Book edited by Leo Lensing

Leo Lensing, chair and professor of German studies, professor of film studies, is the co-editor of the book, Träume. Das Traumtagebuch 1875-1931, published by Wallstein Verlag in 2012. Träume is the dream journal of Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931). Schnitzler is the author of La Ronde, Fräulein Else and other classics of early 20-century Austrian literature.

Prepared together with Peter Michael Braunwarth to celebrate Schnitzler’s 150th birthday, the revised and expanded version of the dream texts originally included in Schnitzler’s diaries can be read as an implicit challenge to Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams. Schnitzler’s Träume (Dreams) is both an “unconscious” autobiography of its author, whom Freud called his doppelgänger, and a dark, surreal reflection of the era between the final phase of the Habsburg Empire and the rise of fascism in the 1920s. His dreams are peopled not only by his family and famous Viennese contemporaries, including Freud, Mahler, Klimt, Karl Kraus and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, but also by Goethe, Mozart, Wagner, Emperor Franz Joseph, Kaiser Wilhelm and even Marlene Dietrich.

Träume has elicited an unexpectedly wide and positive response in the Austrian and German media. An early review of the book in the Viennese music journal Der neue Merker marveled over the “profound richness” of the dream texts and praised commentary and afterword as a “compendium of knowledge” about Schnitzler’s world. ORF TV (Austrian National Television) presented a feature on the book in the evening news on May 6, and Austrian Public Radio included a review a month earlier in “Ex libris,” a weekly program discussing new books. Deutschlandfunk, Deutschland Radio and Westdeutscher Rundfunk, three of Germany’s most prominent public radio stations, broadcast extensive reviews; Deutschlandfunk also named Träume “Book of the Week” on May 15 (Schnitzler’s birthday).

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published a full-page excerpt from the book in its Sunday edition in February and followed up with a positive review and the designation as one of five “Books of the Week” on May 15. The reviewer for the prestigious Arts pages of the Süddeutsche Zeitung (Munich) called Träume “the most fascinating new book of the season,” and Die Welt (Berlin) published a two-page spread that combined a review with lengthy excerpts. Austrian Public Radio has just named the book to its May “Bestenliste,” the 10 best books of the month. Sales have been brisk, and a second printing is due out in mid-June.