top of page

Dream Elegies: After the Red Room

A year has already gone by since the first-ever Mammoth was published. Back then, I was given the honor of writing it: a wry summertime story about a doomed relationship. As a writer, you spend most of your time working on big projects, which is why it feels like a treat to write something small and experimental in between, and preferably, something completely different than what you are actually working on (a novel, a research paper). By now, no less than thirteen Mammoths have been published, the one by Shira Wolfe and Laslo Antal – see below – being the most recent. I hope that, in the coming year, just as many inspiring and varying Mammoths will be written as the archive currently exists of. I'm not really saying that to be sympathetic, but out of self-interest: in 2024, I will edit the first-ever Mammoth anthology. So keep experimenting, my dear colleagues, and hopefully, in two years, we will read your treats offline.

- Nadia de Vries, author of the first Mammoth (text translated by Fannah Palmer)


Dream Elegies

First Elegy: After the Red Room

Shira Wolfe Art by Laslo Antal

Listen to Shira reading her Mammoth out loud,

with Laslo's music in the background:

“These early dreams in particular are of the utmost importance because they are dreamed out of the depth of the personality and, therefore, frequently represent an anticipation of the later destiny.

- Carl Gustav Jung, On the Method of Dream Interpretation, p. 1

“Neither my childhood nor my future is growing smaller… Being in excess wells up in my heart.

- Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies - Ninth Elegy, p. 17

she unearths

the deepest oceans

of my childhood dream

The dream

In my childhood dream

I am locked into place

by a spotlight in a red room.

My father’s friend tickles me

and he won’t stop,

so it becomes a torture.

In the next dream

I’m in my bedroom,

my sister sleeps.

I climb onto the windowsill,

I jump out the window,

I fall down into cold night air.

Before I hit the ground and die

I wake up.

One of my first memories

is this recurring nightmare

dreamt every night for a month.

I was about five years old

and I am 30 when I go to a dream analyst

to interpret the dream.

The dream which foreshadowed

the formation of my identity.

I learn that in the dreams of children,

we often find something

that anticipates the rest of our lives.

And my dream contains a key triad:

1. it was a recurring dream,

2. it was a nightmare, and

3. the dream is a first memory.

This triad implies that the dream

says something important about my personality.

It presents me with a life task.


“In dream series, the dreams are connected to one another in a meaningful way, as if they tried to give expression to a central content from ever-varying angles. To touch this central core is to find the key to the explanation of the individual dreams.”

- Jung, p. 3

Dramatis personae

We examine the characters in the dream.

Who is my father’s friend

and why did I dream him?

He shares my father’s first name,

he is Jewish-American like my father,

but unlike my father he has no family of his own.

He is funny and strange,

clown-like in character

and an editor by profession.

My father’s ancestors are Ukrainian-Belarusian,

His friend’s ancestors are Hungarian-Croatian,

and some of the Hungarians lived in Subotica, Serbia.

Subotica is the synchronicity

I discovered days before the dream analysis:

it connects his past with my present.

In early 20th-century Subotica his grandfather owned a bakery.

In late 20th-century Subotica my love was born.

In the early 21st century I’m a guest in this city.


“Time comes apart a little in the unconscious, that is, the unconscious always remains beside the passing of time and perceives things that do not yet exist. In the unconscious, everything is already there from the beginning. So, for example, one often dreams of a motif that plays a role only the next day or even later.”

- Jung, p. 9-10

The persecution

In my dream he tickles me,