In Delmore Schwartz’s story ‘In Dreams Begin Responsibilities’, a young man dreams he is watching his father and mother’s engagement onscreen from a seat in a cinema. Weeping at the certain knowledge of the pain to come, he’s patted on the back by a woman. ‘There, there,’ she says, ‘all of this is just a movie.’
In a way, this moment distils the challenge of all oneiric narratives — it’s a fiction within a fiction, one in which anything can happen, but without real-world consequences. In this dark, brilliantly controlled debut, the Argentinian Samanta Schweblin uses the fabric of a dream to weave a novel in which everything is at stake and at risk: identity, love and existence.
‘They’re like worms’, a boy says to a woman, Amanda, who is lying in a hospital ward, probably about to die.