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Dream Story-Arthur Schnitzler

Dream Story (also published as Rhapsody) (German: Traumnovelle) is a 1926 novella by the Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler. It details the thoughts and psychological transformations of Doctor Fridolin over a two-day period. In this short time, he meets many people who give a clue to the world Schnitzler is creating for us. This culminates in the masquerade ball, a wondrous event of masked individualism, sex, and danger for Fridolin the outsider.

The book belongs to the period of Viennese decadence after the turn of the century.

Dream Story is set in early-twentieth-century Vienna. The protagonist of the story, Fridolin, is a successful thirty-five-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 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 sex 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, as 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 night before; before he can enter, he is handed a note addressed to him by name that warns him to not 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 will never happen again but Albertine tells him not to look to far into the future. The dream story ends and they greet the new day with their daughter.

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