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Richard Sieburth

Michel Leiris’s <br><i>Nights as Day, Days as Night</i>

Michel Leiris’s
Nights as Day, Days as Night

Reviewed by Daniel Fraser

In Nights as Day, Days as Night, translated by Richard Sieburth, Michel Leiris presents the reader with a series of dream records, along with a few scenes from his waking life, set down between 1923 and 1960. Some of the dreams last for only a few sentences; others extend over several pages, and each of them is almost entirely self-contained. Many sparkle with wit and an amusing flippancy while others sink into horror and are truly unsettling. There are sexual fantasies, physical transformations, compressed temporalities, and sunken spaces. All are narrated through the veil of wakefulness. Their elements bubble up to the surface of consciousness and then disappear. But Nights as Day, Days as Night is not merely a dream journal. Leiris, as Sieburth reminds us from the outset,  “preferred to classify these hundred and so Nights . . . among his poetry” rather than part of his great autobiographical project, and it is as poems that they might be most fruitfully read, prose-poems whose subject is the act of dreaming itself . . .