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Dream Elegies: After the Red Room

Het is alweer een jaar geleden dat het allereerste Mammoetje uitkwam. Ik had destijds de eer om deze te schrijven: een wrang zomerverhaal over een gedoemde liefde. Als schrijver ben je het merendeel van je werktijd kwijt aan allerlei grote projecten, waardoor het als een traktatie voelt om tussendoor iets kleins en experimenteels te schrijven, het liefst iets totaal anders dan waar je eigenlijk mee bezig bent (een boek, een onderzoek). Ondertussen zijn er maar liefst dertien Mammoetjes verschenen, waarvan die van Shira Wolfe en Laslo Antal – zie hieronder – de recentste is. Ik hoop dat er het komende jaar net zoveel inspirerende en gevarieerde Mammoetjes zullen volgen als dat het archief nu al telt. Dat schrijf ik niet zozeer om sympathiek te zijn, maar omdat ik er zelf een belang bij heb: in 2024 zal ik namelijk de allereerste Mammoetjes-bundel redigeren. Dus blijf experimenteren, lieve collega’s, en hopelijk lezen we jullie traktaties over twee jaar offline.

- Nadia de Vries, auteur van het eerste Mammoetje


Dream Elegies

First Elegy: After the Red Room

Shira Wolfe Kunst door Laslo Antal

Beluister hier hoe Shira haar Mammoetje voorleest, met muziek van Laslo op de achtergrond:

“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,

and crosses the fine line

between pleasure and torture.

I feel persecuted.

Tickling becomes a torture

that drives me mad.

This man who is close to my father but not my father

may be my animus,

my father’s shadow aspect,

as children, it is said, often live

the unconscious and unlived sides of their parents.

It is likely that the second image, jumping out the window,

is the result of the first, the torture,

because it is unbearable.

It makes me want to throw myself out the window.

I wake up because it is horrifying,

I wake up in order to remember the dream.


“A persecutory dream always means: this wants to come to me. When you dream of a savage bull, or a lion, or a wolf pursuing you, this means: it wants to come to you. Working with such a dream in analysis means to familiarize people with the thought that they should by no means resist when this element faces them. The Other within us becomes a bear, a lion, because we made it into that. Once we accept this, it becomes something else.”

- Jung, p. 19

Binding together what is falling apart

When I dreamt this nightmare

our family foundations had started to show cracks,

and I knew nothing,

sensed everything,

but didn’t know what everything was.

So as happily as a tragic clown

I tried to bind together

a family that was falling apart.

Children unconsciously

want to help their parents

make things better.

I took the elements of fun and laughter

from my father’s friend

to make my family happy.

But in my dream

my subconscious also tried to warn me

that this role would torment me over time.

It tried to tell me to break with it.


“Important psychical occurrences in the environment can be perceived. Moods and secrets, too, can actually be ‘scented’ unconsciously.”

- Jung, p. 14

To kill the childhood model

I often felt

that feeling bad was abnormal,

my dark side was a mystery to me.

The model I found

when I was a child and faced my first problem

was caring for others

and making things right.

But in the second part of my dream

I turn to suicide.

It means killing this model that was given to me

because it is impossible to contain it

as time goes by.

I have to kill my father’s friend in me,

so that I can live normally.

My childhood dream

showed me my life’s task:

to learn not to live for others.

Or else I will be like the clowns in fairytales,

suppressing depression,

unable to face reality,

and losing themselves in the service of others.


“The dream represents that tendency of the unconscious that aims at a change of the conscious attitude. These are very significant dreams. Someone with a certain attitude can be completely changed by them.”

- Jung, p. 5

The other side of me protests

In order to be free,

I should kill the side of me

that I learned to live with since childhood.

I have to learn to live for myself,

though living for others is my easy way out.

Wanting to live for my parents,

I’ve repeated this

in my relationships since.

But in my attempts to focus on me,

the other side of me protests:

she wants to reclaim her position.

And when I feel this inner struggle

I know my father’s friend in me

is torturing me again,

and I have to act.

As a child I was powerless,

but as I’m no longer a child

they say adults have power.

The other side of me must be killed

so that I can live.

I am asked to name the dream

and I answer:

“After the Red Room.”


“When we study the history of a family, and investigate the relations between parents and children, we can often see the red thread of fate.”

- Jung, Psychological Interpretation of Children’s Dreams, p. 110-111

I have seen the other side of me

she said she has always been there

asleep for 30 years.

Ik heb een moeder,

een vader,

een zus die meer van hun geheimen wist dan ik.

Ja sam bila lepak,

ja sam bila sreća,

i nepoznata laž.

The other side of me

is trying to get out,

is crawling through my throat,

my eyes, my wounds.

Ik heb een moeder die meer wilde,

een werkverslaafde vader,

een zus die teveel wist.

Mislila sam

da sam srećna

a sanjala sam istinu,

da moram da se ubijem.

I dreamt the other side of me

in my childhood nightmares

the same one every night.

Elke nacht droomde ik dat ik stierf

maar werd ik levend wakker,

en was ik weer gelukkig,

en was ik weer de zon.

The other side of me

is death itself.

Šta je tvoja druga strana?


Shira Wolfe is een Nederlands-Amerikaanse dichter en schrijver met een theaterachtergrond. Sinds het afronden van haar master International Performance Research in 2016, met een experimentele documentaire over de Palestijnse dichter Mahmoud Darwish, woont en werkt zij afwisselend in Belgrado, Amsterdam en Berlijn. In Belgrado werkte zij als medeoprichter van de dramatherapie-organisatie Talas Creative Therapies aan dramatherapie en theaterprojecten. Ook schrijft ze sinds 2017 over de hedendaagse kunstwereld en kunstgeschiedenis voor het tijdschrift Artland Magazine. Tussen 2021-2022 werkte ze voor de Perdu stichting voor poëzie en experiment in Amsterdam. In 2021 verscheen haar eerste dichtbundel Wider Than the Sky in het Engels, Nederlands en Servisch, en in 2022 verscheen haar vervolgbundel Wider Wings. After the Red Room is het eerste onderdeel van Shira's nieuwe project Dream Elegies, een collectie van haar belangrijkste dromen en de interpretatie van deze dromen.

Laslo Antal is een Hongaarse kunstenaar, geboren in Servië (voormalig Joegoslavië). In 2010 verhuisde hij naar Berlijn, waar hij als freelance beeldend kunstenaar, grafisch ontwerper, filmmaker en muzikant werkte. Sinds 2021 woont en werkt Laslo in Amsterdam. Na het afronden van zijn master aan de UDK in Berlijn werkte hij samen met het avant-garde theatergezelschap Vinge-Müller, en bracht hij albums uit en trad op met zijn muziekprojecten Sixth June en Diesein, waar hij muziek met film en beeldende kunst combineert. Hij werkt ook geregeld samen met schrijvers, als illustrator en boekontwerper. In 2017 begon hij aan het project Visual Diary. Elke dag maakt Laslo een collagekunstwerk als een visueel dagboek, een project dat hij in verschillende vormen exposeert en voor de rest van zijn leven zal voortzetten.

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