When They Come in Our Dreams When They Come in Our Dreams

When They Come in Our Dreams

Kornel Filipowicz
time 19 minutes

Born in 1913 in Tarnopol (modern-day Ukraine), Kornel Filipowicz grew up in Cieszyn but spent most of his life in Kraków. He debuted before the war, but it was only later that he developed his unique style, which has been characterized by ‘metaphysical realism’ and a predilection for detailed portrayal of the everyday ‘banal’ reality of provincial towns. In his private life, Filipowicz was the long-term partner of Wisława Szymborska, and his poems and stories certainly show similarities to that of the Nobel Prize winner. Filipowicz was an enthusiastic fisherman, which is also reflected in his writing. Written probably in 1979, “When They Come in Our Dreams” is widely considered one of Filipowicz’s greatest masterpieces. More recently, the story has been described as prophetic and symbolic in the ways that it depicts the imminent migrant crisis.

It was frosty outside, but there was no wind. Through the window, I could see snowflakes floating lazily through the still air and settling quietly onto the ground, the roofs, and trees. It was afternoon already, time passed imperceptibly, empty and inert.

I was reading a book that rather bored me, so from time to time I’d think of something else, or doze briefly, then I’d return to the interrupted sentence, go back to the beginning, and again I’d drop off for a moment. Without losing awareness of where I was, or of a blissful (if somewhat monotonous) sense of peace and safety, I floated just beneath the surface of wakefulness, always on the shore of that stretch where everything is still real, but hazy and muted, so only half distinct. I could have fallen fast asleep at any moment, but I didn’t try to resist. I had nothing urgent to do, I could sleep or not. Sleep is a state in which we immerse ourselves with the naïve trust of a creature to whom it seems that, wherever else, at least in sleep nothing evil threatens it. And why not. What harm could we possibly come to in our own absence?

I suddenly fell, then, into a sleep so sound, so deep, that when I resurfaced, it seemed to me a more intense reality than that in which I’d lived till then. I went on sitting in the chair in my


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The Art of Translation with Anna Zaranko The Art of Translation with Anna Zaranko
Illustration by Marcel Olczyński

The Art of Translation with Anna Zaranko

The Valdemar Questionnaire
Ernest Valdemar

In the Valdemar Questionnaire, we give voice to translators who reflect on their work and role as intermediaries between languages and cultures. In this instalment of our series, Valdemar takes on Anna Zaranko, author of the featured translation “When They Come in Our Dreams” by Kornel Filipowicz.

You can read Anna’s translation of Kornel Filipowicz’s “When They Come in Our Dreams” here.

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