Adults have very few bedtime stories. Once youíre old enough to tell bedtime stories, no one bothers to give them to you any more. When people over the age of nineteen find sleep elusive, weíre supposed to hunt it down and cage it with alcohol, drugs or late-night television. Itís a poor approach, one that delivers few dreams and many headaches.
Paul Poissel has done his bit to remedy this with The Facts of Winter. At a very real personal cost, he explored the world of sleep and brought back a collection of prose snapshots from the dreamworld of Paris in 1881. Each is presented as the event of a single night. There are almost three months of stories in The Facts of Winter, almost three months of dreams retold for the waking world. The stories are inarguably authentic. Each possesses the inarguable logic and unquestioned impossibility of real dreams. None are longer than a page, but every one is compelling enough to drive away all distractions until the echoes of the dream have been properly thought through.
The Facts of Winter is more than a collection of dreaming koans and bedtime stories, of course. Poissel was struggling with his own life and place in society when he wrote The Facts of Winter, and that colors the work. There are also doubtless plenty of small details that literary historians can coo over in Poisselís depiction of Paris in the dark. But whatever knowledge or context Poisselís stories may hold, it would be lost if the tales themselves werenít so delightful. As it is, even those not interested in research will go back through these brief stories for sheer enjoyment.
Much of that enjoyment is due to Paul La Fargeís translation. La Farge deserves commendation for preserving the simple elegance of language so necessary to these dream scenes. His introduction provides essential context to Paul Poisselís work. LaFargeís afterword is almost as entertaining as one of Poisselís stories, while sneaking in a great deal of background on the writer and his work.
The Facts of Winter is a strange little book, stories about a time that never happened in a past the writer himself was already forgetting. Itís also one of the most genuinely pleasurable reading experiences youíre likely to find. Savored in one story episodes or taken as a single mad tale, The Facts of Winter is the next best thing to dreaming yourself.