Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The unanswerable question

The apparent confusion between the reality of dreams and the reality of waking life... allows writers to use dreams to question reality without having to attempt an impossible imitation of a dreamlike state. In one of his unpublished notebooks, Coleridge famously wrote:
If a man could pass through Paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there, and if he found that flower in his hand when he awake—Aye! and what then?
So unanswerable is the question, so neatly does it blend the reality of dreams and the reality of waking life, that H. G. Wells, in order to lend verisimilitude to the nightmarish fantasy of The Time Machine, borrowed Coleridge’s unsettling supposition and concluded his story with just such a flower.
-- Alberto Manguel

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