Bildungsroman


This morning, I woke up after a long dream that was loosely tied in with Harry Potter characters.  I do this somewhat frequently; maybe once a month; maybe more; where real and fictional characters who have deeply affected me, wind through my dreams. A short list:

  • The Beatles (including the two dead ones)
  • The cast of Friends
  • Characters from Lord of the Rings
  • The cast of M*A*S*H
  • The characters from the Harry Potter books
  • The cast of Northern Exposure (this was a few years ago, when it was still on TV)
  • The characters from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

I don’t know if this tells me anything in particular; I’ll leave the dream interpretations others more skilled in the Psychological Arts than I am.

My grandparents and great-grandparents (all dead but three, now) also visit my dreams fairly frequently. I don’t know what that means either. Maybe I have some unresolved business with them? They’re never trying to warn me or anything. I just … dream them. We’re going to visit them, or coming from visiting them, or organizing a huge meal. Sometimes I don’t want to wake up from these dreams because, well, people who are very important to me are there, and acting the way they should act, and aren’t in a box or urn someplace. I usually wake up pensive, with a quiver in my heart after one of those nights.

But why the heck do I dream about Harry Potter and his magical world? I haven’t been seventeen for far more than seventeen years. I don’t usually go around saving the world from Voldemort, except in  my mind, where he’s always present, and has to be beaten back before he brings the world to a chaotic ruin and kills Albus Dumbledore (who is never dead in my dreams).

There’s a German literary term, Bildungsroman,  that basically means “coming of age novel.” Huckleberry Finn is a fine example of one of these. So is Burroughs’s Running With Scissors (in case you don’t read books over 30 years old). This type of work has always appealed to me. I like seeing things through new eyes; the process of discovery of a young person is fascinating; often they notice things I wouldn’t. Many Fantasy novels have a heavy dose of the Bildungsroman in them which is, in part, why I enjoy reading that literature so much. There’s something heartening and often cheerful to see a character, and watch them grow and learn. A novel, even a long one, I can usually finish in 8 or so hours, and enjoy the arc of a story that ends (preferably) with somebody growing up, wiser, and better, and maybe with a touch of magical power.  Seeing it in real life with my two sons is rather slow-motion version of the same thing. I guess it’s why I like being a father so much. There’s magic in watching them mature. If I could condense their lives into a three-hundred page novel, I surely would. And they’d probably sue me for revealing all sorts of weird stuff about them.

But that’s life. You gotta live it, and you gotta dream it.

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3 thoughts on “Bildungsroman”

  1. I forgot to mention that, in addition to French, you’ll also get to work on Polish and Italian as you watch the films I recommended. Salut/Do widzenia/Ciao!

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  2. About 8 years ago, I began doing a lot of research on family history. It was about the same time that I began getting nostalgic for the Cold War era and the late-60’s and early 70’s. I’ve long had dreams that have included my grandparents (the first time I had one in which my Iowa born-and-bred, Republican, Swedish-Scots Irish-English-Pennsylvania Dutch grandmother spoke fluent Japanese was a trip), but when I started the genealogy work and began reading old letters, court records and histories that pertained to ancestors or places they had lived, and especially when distant cousins began sharing really old photos, my imagination and dream life went into overdrive. Some mornings I’d wake up and it’d take a couple of espressos to get me back into the reality of the present day. I’m no longer tracing down the ancestral dead with the same vigor that I used to as the goal of my research project has been, for the most part, achieved, but every once in a while I have one of those time-space muddling dreams that is hard to shake off.

    Shortly after I first came to Japan and was deep in the throes of culture shock, I used to disappear into the bowels of a building down in Roppongi where I had discovered a tiny art cinema (Remember the Sash Mill Cinema in Santa Cruz? Think screens that small.). The way I feel after some of the above mentioned dreams is similar to the way I felt early on in Japan, especially when navigating Tokyo’s crowds after watching a European art film. Since we’re on the topic of dreams and disorientation, and since you’ve begun playing around with French language again, I’d like to recommend two movies to you. One, La double vie de Véronique, you can easily order on-line. It is my favorite Krzyzstof Kieslowski film, and it is on the whole more pleasing than the other, Anna Oz. The second film, along with everything else I was going through at the time, really spun the inside of my head around. I had to watch it a couple of times because my French listening skills are horrible and the Japanese subtitles were meaningless to me. You can watch Anna Oz in parts via the following link: . Both films deal with the real or imagined sense of others, be they real world doppelgangers or dreamt up doubles.

    Enjoy!

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