Why do we dream?  Leibniz believed that life itself was a succession of dreams; Augustin believed that dreams were communications from beyond the grave and Aristotle believed that dreams were souls.  Many more thinkers assumed that dreams signalled the presence of divine power.  Nobody really knows.  For one thing, dreaming is a personal experience and this can make it difficult to remain objective.  Moreover, we don’t tend to remember our dreams very well and, even when we do, we may find them too strange and simply discard them.  Continue reading


Un Coup D’État

News of the Sedan disaster had reached Paris and the republic had been declared.  All of France was preparing for the terror, which was to last until the CommuneUp and down the country, men were playing at being soldiers.  Tradesmen were colonels who acted like generals, their pistols and daggers kept in red belts around peace-loving stomachs.  Merchants were now temporary soldiers who commanded platoons of brawlers.  They swore like carters in a bid to gain credibility. Continue reading

L’Aventure de Walter Schnaffs

Walter Schnaffs had arrived in France with the invading army.  And, ever since, he had been very unhappy.  Walter was fat with podgy feet and he was always out of breath.  He was also peace-loving and gentle, without a high-minded or blood bone in his body.  He loved his four children and missed the tender kisses and home comforts of his young wife.  He especially missed her in the evenings. Continue reading

A discussion of three Ian McEwan novels

In literary theory, there is a distinction between modernism and postmodernism.  Both terms are associated with specific literary features.  For example, a modern text tends to focus on the experience of an individual as part of society, whereas a postmodern text tends to remove any explicit reference to society.  It is difficult to identify when modernism stops and when postmodernism begins, since the two terms belong on either end of a continuum.  In fact, the difference is more to do with attitude than with any particular literary feature.  A modern text belongs to the tradition that views the history of mankind as a steady march of progress; a postmodern text does not belong to this tradition. Continue reading