The Original Dream, Nukila Amal, 2003, translated by Linda Owens, 2017
- Indonesia, #15
- Kindle edition, $1.99 from Amazon
- Read July 2017
- Rating: 2.5/5
- Recommended for: hot messes
My mom always used to tell me that there’s nothing as boring as listening to someone else’s dreams. I happen to disagree in my own case—just the other day I was having dinner with Gordon Ramsay and the cast of Game of Thrones at a very hip new restaurant where the staff had accidentally written all the menu items backwards, which is far more interesting than anything that ever happens to me in real life—but on the other hand, The Original Dream offers some compelling evidence in my mother’s favor. I think it was an attempt at nonlinear magical realism but the end product was a plotless, jumbled mess. I thought I’d go with that and give you my memories of this book, a year and a half after reading it, without referring to any of my notes or highlights, which will probably give you some sense of what it’s like to read The Original Dream without having to shell out two bucks to Amazon.
So there’s a girl who lives in a big city in Indonesia and works in a hotel (in my head I keep picturing the hotel from the scene from Lost where Sun goes to meet this guy that her parents are setting her up with and she’s all annoyed because she is NOT into the whole arranged marriage thing and plus all this guy seems to have going for him is that he’s rich, except when she meets him he turns out to be really cute and funny and kind, and she’s getting kind of excited about the whole matchmaking thing, and then he reveals that he’s just going on this date to keep his own parents happy because actually he’s engaged to an American he met while studying abroad. I don’t think anything like that happens in The Original Dream, but for some reason it sticks in my mind. Probably just because the main character from The Original Dream works in a hotel and her life is unfulfilling and also she doesn’t have a boyfriend). And there are some things about mirrors, and something about a Coca-Cola billboard that’s important or symbolic for some reason.
Anyway, the girl proceeds to have dreams within dreams within dreams in a very Inception-like fashion, with one dream being like THE INNERMOST DREAM (i.e., I suppose, the Original Dream) and that’s the one that involves flying with a fairly sarcastic advice-giving dragon back to her parents’ house on the small remote island where she grew up (maybe in the Malukus, but I can’t be sure) and getting lost in some plants or something. There’s something about a tooth, too, maybe a gold tooth, and some other person or entity is flying around with her and the dragon. And I guess probably some deep life lesson is learned but it’s not really clear what it is.
There you have it. You don’t need to read the book now.
But in case you wanted more details, after I wrote all that I went back and looked at my notes and there are some absolute corkers of quotes in there which make me think that maybe all this book needed was a better editor and it would have actually been good. Such as:
“If you ever forget which gender you are, just walk around the city or ride a city bus. If it seems like your body is not yours but the public’s property, then you’re a woman.”
But my feelings for the book can probably be deduced from the pattern of decline in my highlights and notes, which start out very earnest, like this reminds me of the Tahitian stories of first European contact, and this passage is reminiscent of “Waking Life,” and wind up with me annotating sentences like “Maybe there will be a story,” with Or maybe not, and “Then sentence by sentence. Who knows for how long, who knows if it will ever be finished? But I will know when to stop,” with God, when?
My final note is on a paragraph from the book’s closing pages:
That can never become language. You must experience it to comprehend it. Then it all matters not at all. Not everything can be told. Though there is always something that can be said.
About which I wrote, I guess if you find that deep and insightful this book is for you. But as a guiding principle for a novel, it seems pretty defeatist.