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I was born in Copenhagen, Denmark and have worked as an artist and professor of art in higher education for more than fifteen years, After having spent the last couple of decades traveling in Europe, the US and the Pacific, I now live in Portland, Maine with my wife the British artist/ designer Helen Stringfellow, our three young daughters and Waffles the pug,  

Literature has always played an important role in my life and although I have dedicated most of my adult life to the world of visual arts and higher education, I have always found a natural outlet in writing. I find it fascinating how stories and narratives are shared across cultures, no matter whether they are written for entertainment, education, societal critique or as cultural preservation.

Work

The Somnambulist's Dreams is the story of a lighthouse keeper somewhere on the coast of New England who discovers a collection of seemingly deranged writings left behind by his somnambulant predecessor. He swiftly becomes an unwitting participant in a nebulous narrative that not only defies time and space, but also brings into question his own sanity. 

Artwork by Kyle Louis Fletcher   

Artwork by Kyle Louis Fletcher 

 

BELOW IS AN EXCERPT FROM THE NOVEL

 

There was no denying it was lonesome. 

Now that the frost had irrevocably moved down from the north, he found the nights particularly long. He rubbed his hands over the kerosene stove in the galley, before putting on his fingerless gloves and wrapping a thick grey woolen scarf around his neck. His uniform was far from adequate, so to keep warm he picked up his overcoat, put two of the heated stones in his coat pockets and climbed the stairs. It was cold in the watch room, and as he exhaled, small shapeless clouds formed in the air.

He put down the lamp on a small battered rectangular oak table on which a number of initials and other inscriptions had been veraciously carved, removed a watch from his pocket and flipped open the cover to check the time.

Not that it was necessary.

The sun was still dispersing a sheath of liquid fire on the horizon, so he still had some time.

As usual he had cleaned and inspected the lens earlier that morning. He had also refilled the fuel and checked the wick. Although it was somewhat frayed, he hadn’t found it necessary to trim it.

He began winding up the mechanism that rotated the Fresnel lens. He counted the revolutions and when he could feel the proper resistance from the weights, he stopped and looked out at the sky that, with its millions of effulgent flecks, stretched above him in an infinite elastic expanse. At least tonight he wouldn’t have to worry about visibility.

After he had lit the wick and set the lens in motion, the light would be flashing for the next hour and a half, before it needed another rewind. 

He stared into the night and listened to the wind lambaste the waves against the granite, almost sixty feet below. He could almost sense their febrile, liquid tentacles surrounding the belfry as the tide moved in.

He was fascinated by the facility and seemingly infinite power of the ocean, and in his first few months in the tower he had often devoted his entire watch to gazing at the sea, utterly lost in the immensity before him.

He unbuttoned the top of his coat to remove a small package that he set down on the table next to the lamp. He repositioned one of the rickety armless chairs and sat down.

He had found the package earlier in the day, when he had cleared out the small storage area next to the water cistern on the lower level. Something light had been hastily wrapped in an old waxy piece of paper and tied together with a piece of oily twine.

Due to its lack of substance he had almost discarded it, but then he read the faded fragment: “.....ust acquaint themselves with the working of the apparatus in their charge. Upon any doubtful point questions must be a ….”on the outside of the pallid but dirty paper.

He recognized it from the booklet, Instructions to Lighthouse-Keepers by authority of The Lighthouse Board. Before taking up his current position he had read it studiously, and he had even brought his own copy of the 1881 edition with him. It was now sitting in the small bookshelf by the bed, in the sleeping quarters on the second floor.

He had put the small package aside and after he had finished clearing out and rearranging the storage area, he carried it upstairs and put it on the small stool next to his bed. Although he was intrigued by its content, he nevertheless decided to wait until evening to properly examine it. 

He had left it on the stool as he slept.

Now it was time.

He put his hands in his pockets and closed his fingers around the warm smooth unyielding surface of the heated stones.

He realized that he would have most likely appeared deranged to the casual observer, as he had walked up and down the beach picking up, examining, comparing and rejecting a great number of stones until he found four that were as close to faultless as they could be.

The surfaces of the specimens he had finally selected were completely smooth and when he closed his fingers around them, they fitted comfortably in the palm of his hands.  They were all slightly irregular in shape and placed together on the stove in the galley, they very much looked like a small pile of grey tapered potatoes. He rolled the stones around in his pockets until his fingertips started to prickle.

When his fingers had regained their mobility, he picked up the small parcel, untied the twine and unfolded the paper to expose a small bundle of papers.

He twice folded the waxy cover paper, pressed it down with his hand, and placed the rolled up twine on top. He put it at the corner of the table and looked at the bundle in front of him.

The papers were small, not much bigger than a regular postcard, and nearly translucent.

When he carefully removed the top piece from the pile and held it up to the light, he felt like he was holding something evanescent between his fingertips.

The paper flowed against his skin like a thin membrane and the words decorated the page in a fluid, intricate pattern.

He thought of the wings of a butterfly as he gingerly placed it on the table and read.

 

The Dreams of

Enoch S. Soule

My Dearest Emily,

When we were young, you often asked me what I dreamed about in the night and though I was always reluctant to tell you, mostly because I was embarrassed and fearful of your response, I have finally decided to write to you about my dreams, and trust that you will recognize and know the true me and not be abhorred by the fantasies of my mind, over which I have no control.

I am, as far as I know, compos mentis and yet I cannot explain, even to myself, where the figments originate. Beside their esotericism, I do not know if there is any other significance to them.

I have chosen to share my dreams with you, so that you can better understand and perhaps accept why I could not share them sooner.

The dreams have always been the same, and despite some slight variations, they have not changed for as long as I can remember. I have attempted to name the places that I visit, though without proper research, I cannot be sure if they hold true.  I have not ordered or dated the dreams, as it seems that there is no beginning or end to them. They flow into one another, like a stroke from a painters’ brush, to form one complete but enigmatic picture.

However, before I tell you what transpires in my somnambular state, I want you to know, how truly sorry I am to have left you lonely all these years.  It was never my intent for us to be apart for such an extensive amount of time. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.

Although you have said in jest many times, that I was in love only with my tower, you should know that, from the depths of my heart, there has never been anyone else on this earth that I loved more than you.

Blessed Mary herself has but a morsel of the affection of my heart as you do.

You have always been and will always be my one true love and our beautiful girls my eternal inspiration.

Sitting here overlooking the expanse of the sea, I wish that I could rewind time, so that I could have devoted more of it to being at home with you and the girls, instead of being locked away in this tower, listening to the eternal thrashing of the waves.

Alas, that is not possible.

In the end we all must accept and live the life we have chosen with the happiness and misgivings that follow.

You have never complained or lamented your lot in life, however, I am deeply sorry if I have brought you more heartache than joy, both in our time together and apart. 

I would like you to know, that I believe my time here is coming to an end. These days my body is in near constant agony and my mind has started to wander, even more so than usual.

I miss the sight of the trees in the street, the smell of flowers in the garden, the sound of small songbirds and the laughter of our girls. But mostly I miss having my arms around You in a loving embrace.

I bide my time until we meet.

Please pass on my everlasting love and affection to the girls.

I will forever be yours.

Your Loving Husband,
Enoch

 

He turned over the page; it was blank. He looked through the window into the darkness and searched the horizon. Nothing was moving but the sea.

He wondered how the package had found its way to the tool cupboard in the storage area.

When he looked down he realized he was still holding the letter between his fingers.

He carefully placed it face down on the table next to the bundle and picked up the next sheet. 

 

Where to buy:

 

The Somnambulist's Dreams is now available in the following esteemed retailers: Sherman's Bookstore and Longfellow Books in the beautiful state of Maine....

Sherman's Bookstore

It can also be ordered from the following online booksellers: 

Amazon  

Kindle

Barnes & Noble

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REVIEWS:

Being from New England, lighthouses hold a special place in my heart. While I love all varieties of lighthouse, I admit my favorites are the ones on some small, rocky island off the coast of or seemingly in the middle of the ocean. Whenever I see a picture of one or pass by one in a boat, I like to imagine the people who lived and worked there, maybe even families, and wonder what drove them out there to essentially live a life of solitude.

Of course, I'm being romantic about it. Realistically, I know the life of a lighthouse keeper couldn't have been much fun. Being away from everyone else, a slave to the light, only company maybe a cat or dog and the passing ships. Having to wait for supplies every month or every two months, etc. I don't think I would have enjoyed that kind of life, myself.

And yet, any book that has to do with lighthouses I usually end up picking up (except The Light Between Oceans, funny enough, maybe that's because it seems like one of those novels in the Women's Fiction category alongside My Sister's Keeper or The Memory Keeper's Daughter). This book was no exception. A bunch of odd writings detailing the deranged dreams of the old lighthouse keeper? I never clicked buy so quickly.

And it was exactly what it was advertised as. From the first letter I was hooked. I enjoyed the trips I took in the grief twisted mind of Enoch Soule, and in particular had fun guessing where or who was in each dream of his. Some I got right away, like Poe or Bowie, but others I had to guess at a bit more. For instance, I can't tell whether the artist who did the chessboard is Marcel Duchamp (of the signed urinal fame) or Rene Magritte. I thought it might be Duchamp, because of the bicycle wheel on the stool, but then he said "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" which is Magritte. I don't know. I admit, I'm not as versed in this area of art history as I should probably be (though I am a casual admirer of Magritte's work- of course, I just like surrealism. Duchamp, on the other hand, loses me).

The writing is very Scandinavian. Even without a name like Lars, I could tell he was from somewhere up north. It reminded me a lot of the writing in Wolf Winter, a very simplistic, almost cold style of prose. It eventually grew on me, though was jarring after the last few books I read, which were all very purple. My favorite by far was the contrast between the simple sentences (he did this, he did this, then he did this) and the fanciful narrative of the dreams. By doing this, Jerlach exemplified the contrast between the unnamed lighthouse keeper's rather mundane regular routine and the dreams without ever telling us. 

I would go more into the plot, but I went into this book mostly blind and ended up enjoying it more for it. This is one of those books best discovered and interpreted by oneself. So pick this one up one night, maybe put Space Oddity on in the background, and enjoy your trip in the mind of Enoch Soule.

Laura (Goodreads) 

This is probably one of the most original and unique books I've read this summer, a captivating, thrilling work heavily immersed in dreams, philosophy and fantasy. In just a short length of a novel, the author paints a vivid, riveting portrait of a lonely lighthouse keeper engrossed in the ramblings left behind from another who came before him. Do these writings mean something special and important, or are they just the insane thoughts of an isolated man? Telling his story to a childhood friend by the name of Emily, Enoch, a somnambulist, pours out a hidden tale that you can read again and again and never be bored with.

If there's one thing I loved about this book above all else, it's the style in which it's written. Old-fashioned and yet simple to understand, it's the type of story that could easily appeal to any reader. Each character is realistic and unforgettable and the scenery and surroundings are depicted flawlessly, as though watching an old film. The Somnambulist's Dreams is a book that everybody should read, not only because it's engaging but also because it's unlike any other book I've ever read. 

(On a side-note, can I just add that the front/back cover graphics are absolutely incredible?) :) 

Rebecca McNutt

A lighthouse keeper on the coast of Maine in the 1800’s finds a cache of letters from a previous keeper. In these writings, the man recorded his strange dreams; dreams that were so real he felt he was living or re-living or (since most are in the future) anticipating someone else’s life. 

And what dreams these are! He has a penchant for getting involved with celebrities: David Bowie’s Major Tom appears and Renee Magritte (ceci n’est pas une pipe). He has sex with Sigourney Weaver on the set of Aliens. He’s dying from gangrene as a famous Antarctic explorer. We’re at the bottom of a well with one of Murakami’s characters and his cat. 

In these dreams Poe’s raven appears; sometimes as a white raven, sometimes black. The man converses with the raven in his dreams and we touch on reincarnation, the meaning of existence and ceasing to exist, consciousness. We’re treated to snippets from philosophers such as Schopenhauer. 

In between his readings of the previous keeper’s papers, there’s a deliberate repetition of the dull daily life of the present-day keeper. He makes tea, makes porridge, checks his watch, rewinds the mechanism that rotates the light. At first I thought this was overly repetitive but the gimmick succeeds is inducing a hypnotic state so that we can see how isolated keepers can go bonkers.

Of course nothing is as it seems, so we get some surprising twists near the end. A good read. 

Jim Fonseca

I picked up this novel yesterday, and I have been lost in its pages ever since.  This book is transcendent.  The writing is mellifluous in tone and extraordinary in content.  It is a book of dreams that have no reason to exist given the time in which the dreamer sleeps.  The past and the future are non-existent, and each account occurs in the here and now.  A lighthouse keeper finds pages of a journal recounting the enigmatic dreams of his predecessor.  As he goes about his routines throughout the night, the keeper is drawn further into the mysterious world he is reading about.  Like me, he is enraptured.  Lost.  Each panorama brings up questions of time, reality and sanity, and each question is answered in its simplest and truest form.  As the readers of this book, it is ultimately up to us to personalize this experience and give it our own meanings.  Allow the words to transport you, and keep a mirror handy.  Highest recommendations.

Janie C (Goodreads)

This book is Neil Gaiman dreaming of Alice in Wonderland. It is a metaphysical beauty.

The story is of an unnamed lighthouse keeper who spends a single night reading a group of letters apparently left from a previous keeper named Enoch Soule. Soule has written 12 letters about his dreams. Each chapter contains one of the mysterious letters followed by the reflections of the reader and his boring night of winding the mechanism that keeps the light turning, making tea and eating the same thing night after night.

There are crossing of many threads; some more subtle than others. There is some symmetry in the mystery of the letters and the boredom of a lighthouse keeper's night, the recurring use of white and black, life and death, the use of the letters N and S, and the themes of reality and dreams. And then there are the questions of when does Enoch Soule's dreams end and who is actually reading his letters.

The dreams are a mixture of past and future events both real and in some cases as characters in a book (such Toru from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle). In some Enoch is human and in others he is a raven. Some of the people he meets seem to be ghosts or from Danish folk lore.

It is a book that needs to be better known

Calzean (Goodreads)

This book captured my attention in such a delicate, unassuming way. Right from the beginning, I got enthralled by the language - it emanates such tenderness, you can almost feel the quietness of that lonely coastal night when you turn the pages. The images seem so delicate and sensual, they unfold and take on a new essence, just like the leaves in the lighthouse keeper's teapot. I may have a slightly overgrown thing for the use of language but I cannot imagine how this beautiful vocabulary drifting through the lines of the story could go unnoticed and unappreciated - the high-flown, sonorous adjectives alone make your head spin as if you've been spoiling yourself with the most exquisite wine.

Aesthetics aside, the language seems to play an important role here. When Enoch meets a dying bull under the African tree, we are presented with the relativity of "here" and "now", which reminds me of Deutscher's "Through the Language Glass" - a brilliant linguistic book that shows mutual relations between languages and cultures. Deutscher talks at length about the Hopi tribe whose language does not include any words or grammatical forms that would refer to what we call "time" and what can be described as a flowing continuum of what is past, present and future; he also writes about spatial orientation influencing vocabulary and syntax in different languages. In "The Somnambulist's Dreams" we repeatedly observe how relative one's understanding can be when it comes to both time and space ("There is always where here is not"; "We are always here") and this paradigmatic haziness of what we tend to perceive as certainty in our Western minds rings quietly but persistently through the whole book ("Everything around us seemed to lose definition"). The book relies on double (if only!) meanings, which corresponds with fluidity of the characters and places, and also expresses itself in the dream-like existence of Enoch Soule. The words "I am ceasing to exist here" and "Nothing is ever what it seems" become the status quo of the momentary reality - everything interlaces, amalgamates together; everything is a part of something bigger, like the chess pieces that create almost limitless amount of combinations. Multiple layers are demonstrated not only in the storyline but also on a deeper level where "The Somnambulist's Dreams" turns into a meta-text commenting on itself through the description of the actual book's cover visualised in one of the dreams. 

The distorted reality might not have an obvious explanation but somehow it seems to me that the meaning of it all is closely linked to being spiritually present in the eternal "here and now" as opposed to our space-bound, restricted by linear time physicality - and just like the white raven says at the bottom of the well, "maybe it is not about what you are searching for, but what you have already found".

The book contains many literary and cultural references - Poe, Murakami, Norse mythology, Marcel Duchamp (if I identified him correctly) and undoubtedly many others which remain unknown to me; discovering these connections and putting them into a bigger whole makes the reading even more enjoyable and rewarding. I also thought that the writing style of "The Somnambulist's Dreams" had a Scandinavian feel to it, known to me mainly from contemporary, niche Norwegian literature - marked by silence, alienation, unknown spaces and perpetual rewinding of the lighthouse mechanism, the book brings to mind permanent suspension that, interestingly enough, made me partially align my reading with that of the lighthouse keeper and mark it with hectolitres of freshly brewed tea.. Of course this (imagined by me?) Scandinavian feel might have something to do with the author's Danish background (I'm possibly twaddling now) but whatever the case, it made me love "The Somnambulist's Dreams" even more.

And here's my favourite fragment of the book:

"Time is never waiting (...) You are dancing an eternal waltz to the sound of your own beating heart. When the music stops, time has already moved on".

T for Tongue-Tied (Goodreads)

There is something tragically romantic about lighthouses: The structures themselves stand watchful and solitary, a beacon of warning and assistance to those at sea. The broad scope of protection proffered by one individual toward so many others. It makes the profession of lighthouse keeper appear selfless, but in my mind it’s more symbiotic than that. I imagine a lighthouse keeper as someone who strives to be useful, but requires isolation the way others require companionship. Introspective in a world that forces continual socialization; the job facilitating a way for them to achieve fulfillment while maintaining the functional distance they inherently need. I imagine them as superheroes in a way. Working alone in the dark for the betterment of humanity, but if they’re really being truthful, they do it for themselves more than anyone else. I’m obviously taking a lot of liberties here, but it’s how I’ve always imagined that world and those who inhabit it.

As far as I understand, modernity has mostly removed the need for lighthouse keepers, relocating that profession to an era of the past. This only adds another layer to the romance and tragedy for me. Basically, this is a long winded explanation of why I am inexorably drawn to stories featuring lighthouses, or lighthouse keepers, and what a story this one was.

We have two main points of view nested within each other: A third person narrative of a lighthouse keeper on a particularly cold night, reading a parcels worth of letters written by his somnambulant predecessor, each detailing a dream experienced during his sleepwalk events. These personal accounts are where the bulk of the story is contained, and in my opinion, where it really shines. The third person interludes between the dreams felt unnecessarily repetitive to me. I wanted something more introspective from these sections. However, I do believe the context in which they reside would change on a subsequent reading, so that may be a rash judgement on my part as a reader.

The story itself has some strong elements of Paul Auster’s style of storytelling. Mystery upon mystery. Or maybe it’s more along the lines of Haruki Murakamis fantastical realism. In his dreams, the somnambulist momentarily inhabits the bodies of others (or sometimes Poe’s raven Nevermore). Some of these characters are historically known to him, others are known to the lighthouse keeper reading the somnambulist's accounts, and others still, aren’t known by either (but should be apparent to the reader of this book itself). There are a few fun surprises here as you become aware of who is being inhabited, and the way that these characters relate to each other. The somnambulist is unsure whether his dreams are genuine experiences, premonitions, or merely dreams. It’s really a clever story structure; each additional dream sequence adding to the mystery and intrigue as the story unfolds toward its conclusion.

The writing style took some time to become accustomed to. The whole book is double line spaced, there are almost no first line indentations, and the author has an on-again/off-again relationship with paragraphs. It feels like a stylistic choice, and I’ve seen it before, but I’m still unsure of the reasoning.

The Somnambulist’s Dreams is postmodern literature with a capital P. Which I’m all about, but have to be in the right kind of mood to properly enjoy. When it comes to postmodernist writing like this that is more ontological, paradoxical, etc, I find it often helps me if I know that that is what I’m getting myself into from the start. The gorgeous cover artwork and synopsis communicate this quite nicely. Every thread may not pull itself together into a pretty little bow in the end, but that’s part of the appeal; it’s the journey, not so much the destination with this kind of novel. I enjoyed this for the type of presence it cultivated while being read, not so much the definitive conclusion or ending that a traditional story builds toward. That’s not to say that The Somnambulist’s Dreams doesn’t conclude in a satisfactory way, it does. It’s just that it’s a bit of paradox in itself, which to me can be infinitely more interesting when it’s handled with grace like this.

Kevin Kelsey

When fellow Scandinavian and name-fellow Lars offered me a copy of his first book, The Somnambulist's Dreams I hesitated only slightly - I'm always a bit reluctant to read and review someone I have social contact with (or know even). In the past, this has gone both ways, actually, but I must say that most experiences have been very positive, and so odds say 'go for it'. And the synopsis for this one sounded intriguing enough!

I read the book more or less in one sitting - just changing from train to plane at about 50 pages, at which point I made a kind of relieved update, praising the writing and intricate story. Phew! I knew now I wasn't going to have to write a negative review. 

I knew nothing. 

After being completely absorbed in this seductive book for a good chunk of today, I realized I had no choice other than to award it all the stars that Goodreads lets me. I did not expect it to come to this, but really, nothing is like it seems, as I was to learn. 

I actually thought I had a first quote for this review, because that very first one is really quite irresistible - but my friend beat me to it.

Enoch Soule's (the Somnambulist of the title) vivid and detailed dreams makes the main part of the story, and they are fascinating to behold - are they dreams or is he actually traveling? In time, if not in space, or is he astral traveling? How come he seems to have different roles (bodies, minds) in different dreams? How come he doesn't seem to remember certain things he's seen before or that should remind him of something? Is the story chronologically told at all? These are just some of the questions I had. 

But there's perfect clarity here as well! In Enoch's travels, we get to meet some very familiar people and places, or at least some representation of them - but don't be fooled into believing that these are riddles to be solved or overly clever meta references only! One of my favorite parts of the book is that much is open to interpretation. Some conclusions are more easily reached than others and some of yours will probably differ from some of mine, but this does not really matter, it never feels like an intelligence test (despite being intelligent) or that every piece of the puzzle will have a 'right' and a 'wrong'.

"Wouldn't you say that seeing ghosts is out of the ordinary?"

"Perhaps your ordinary is different from my ordinary. In my experience, what is real are the things that are still there, even after you stop believing in them."

The dialog of the encounters with famous people (or no people at all, read it and you'll see...) reads very much like a play and is another great feature of the story.

A very happy surprise and a great privilege, I'm certainly looking forward to future offerings from Lars!’

Thomas Strømquist

'There was no denying it was lonesome.'' 

Few situations in life are lonelier than living in a lighthouse. How quiet it must be when the only thing you hear is the sound of the waves. How dark and frightening when a storm is raging and the human being is but an insignificant dot amidst the fighting elements. All these constitute the perfect environment for the birth of dreams, visions and hallucinations.

The current lighthouse keeper on the coast of New England finds a collection of his predecessor's disjointed, weird writings. The man, whose name is Enoch Soule, claims to be a somnambulist, one who engages in sleepwalking (''somnia'' means ''dreams'' in Latin) and Enoch states that these writings are the dreams he's having night after night. The letters are addressed to his wife. This is the premise of this highly unusual and fascinating book.

There are so many questions that arise from the first pages of the novel. Are Enoch's dream actual dreams or are they hallucinations? And, taking it to the extreme, is he shape-shifting or even teleporting? Hard to make any assumptions and that is what I really enjoyed in Lars' book. There are symbols and cryptic elements that force your mind to work in great speed as you read to try and uncover anything similar to an answer.

The central symbol is the lighthouse. It rules over absolute darkness, it provides light in the midst of danger upon the troubled waves, it protects sailors by shielding them from certain death. For me, the lighthouse keepers stand there like the guardians of life, of safety and, perhaps, of a different knowledge and perception of the world. Then, comes the raven. The raven is the heart of the story, it provides the major element of magical realism, even surrealism, and acts like a crossover between Poe's Nevermore and Odin's Huginn and Muninn. Thus, the raven keeps all the answers to life and observes everything. Yet, it discloses nothing.

The dreams create striking images as Enoch finds himself in Kenya, in Antarctica, in a cemetery full of Victorian Gothic features, in Space, in a cell, in a well. The story of the Taxidermist is my favourite. It is a haunting, nightmarish vision where the word ''ghosts'' is mentioned for the first time. This dream echoes Poe's dark tales directly.

The language is beautiful, communicating difficult questions in a powerful simplicity, working through dualities. Black and white, Darkness and Light, Death and Life. This antithesis is wonderfully depicted in the striking cover by Kyle Louis Fletcher. The current lighthouse keeper is -in my opinion- the most enigmatic presence in the book. We see Enoch's inner thoughts, strange as they are, but not once do we enter the mind of his successor who counts the silent minutes in his domain, and I found this particularly puzzling and fascinating. Edgar Allan Poe's presence is thoroughly felt during the narration and I also sensed an echo of Samuel Beckett and Eugène Ionesco's plays.

This is not an easy book, it won't give you answers, but will cause you to think and transport your mind into an apocalyptic world where nothing is as it seems...

''There is no winning or losing, only the eternal plasticity of the game itself.’’

Amalia Gavea

Apocalyptic for the 21st Century

I spent several years of my young adult life serving on what were then called Ocean Stations in the mid-North Atlantic. Bouncing around on small ships which were meant to act as electronic beacons, floating lighthouses really, for overflying aircraft, we spent four or five weeks every two months at sea. The only way to stay sane, for many of us, was to bring a library of books and music along on each patrol. So Jerlach's setting in Somnabulist's Dreams of an isolated lighthouse and its keeper, with a fixed routine of watch-taking and daily living, feels very familiar. 

The difference between Jerlach's lighthouse keeper and me is that his diversion in isolation comes not directly from literature and song but indirectly through the dream diary of one of his 19th century predecessors, one Enoch Soule. Enoch has recorded a series of remarkably precise prophetic, or more accurately apocalyptic, dreams involving figures as diverse as the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami and Jerlach's fellow Dane Karen Blixen (to name any more would spoil the fun of discovery).

I say apocalyptic rather than prophetic because the name of Jerlach's protagonist-once-removed, Enoch, is an explicit reference to the Judaic patriarch, author of the apocryphal (non-canonical) Book of Enoch. At one point a dream-Magritte addresses Enoch in the form of a raven as "the man who apparently didn't die," a reference to the legend that he was taken bodily to heaven by God.

An important section of the biblical Book of Enoch recounts a series of dreams involving the history of Israel. Most of these are not prophecies in the sense of foretelling future events, but rather reinterpretations of historical events in terms of the ultimate destiny of Israel. This is the characteristic of that particular genre called apocalyptic, an eschatological interpretation pointing to final triumph from the midst of apparent disaster.

Frequently Jerlach's lighthouse keeper reads that "nothing is what it seems" in the dream diaries. Animals speak, dreams overlap and interweave, their meanings are never quite clear. This is also the biblical Enoch's technique. For him animals represent people, people represent angels, and the interaction between the two is as enigmatic as in the most obscure of biblical writing. There is an intoxicating overload of possible intention and signification in both sets of dreams (not surprising then that Soule, Enoch's surname, is the first person singular of the French verb 'to induce drunkenness').

For the lighthouse keeper and Enoch Soule, Enoch's dreams are prophetic. They are about the future and people and events of which neither the keeper nor Soule have any knowledge or interest. For them therefore the dreams are confusing rather than revelatory. They are in no position to understand what the dreams or the found-text might mean.

But for us, the readers of Jerlach's book, the dreams are definitive interpretations of the literary and historical events described. They are events of the past that are familiar, at least to some degree, to the reader. Often they are literally terminal, that is, about approaching or recent death. They are always about that present moment and that precise place. There is no future, only 'now'; there is no place other than 'here'. Jerlach presents them as definitively revelatory. That is their meaning, their last meaning.

This brilliant apocalyptic play by Jerlach makes the reader part of the narrative, in fact, the ultimate narrator of the book. It is the reader who puts the final meaning on each event, a meaning which cannot be gainsaid. A remarkable use of the apocalyptic genre for the 21st century.

I feel somewhat nostalgic about my former life at sea, primarily because it did indeed allow the regular reading-leisure to consider many apocalyptic meanings, as well as the meaning of apocalyptic

BlackOxford (Goodreads)

”’Time is never waiting,’ the raven said.’It’s script-less and senseless. It’s never hanging around for anyone to catch up. You are dancing an eternal waltz to the sound of your own beating heart. When the music stops, time has already moved on.’”

Being a lighthouse keeper is a lonely job. A job that is very similar in many ways to being a fire lookout in a National Forest. Edward Abbey did that job for a few seasons, mainly because he couldn’t hold down a real job and wanted time to write. 

I can’t remember the last time I spent a full day alone. Sometimes I’m alone for an hour or maybe half a day, but always with the knowledge that I will be soon joined by other human beings. My brief moments of aloneness are not loneliness. A lighthouse keeper or a fire lookout might be in an area where the next closest person is fifty miles away or a hundred miles away. I can enjoy my brief moments of being alone, even relish them, but for a lighthouse keeper, the weight of being alone and knowing that it might be days or weeks or even months before they see another person can do strange things to his mind. 

Then there are guys, like Jack Torrance from The Shining, who even with their wife and son with them descend into madness without the daily interactions of people to rebalance their equilibrium of proper decorum. Well, he might have had some help finding the road signs that led him to crazy town.

I prefer gentle madness, like the type experienced by Enoch Soule in this story, than the Jack Torrance…Here’s Jack with an Axe...way of dealing with madness. Of course, I may be casting unnecessary aspersions at Soule, for the question of whether he is insane or simply a man with a contemplative mind are up for interpretation. 

Soule is having strange dreams.

I’ve mined my dreams for pieces of stories. Sometimes I’ve dreamed whole novels only to watch them evaporate like a snapchat photo before I can even fully appreciate the rosy hue of nipples or capture the sun dappled riverbank or see the dark shapes beyond the dust motes hanging suspended in a barnyard window. I’ve had strange dreams, foolish dreams, and dreams that woke me up with cold shivers that had me fumbling for a pen and a piece of paper so I could jot a few notes of what I’ve seen. 

Not only does Soule remember his dreams, but he writes them down. Not only does he dream his dreams, but he steps into them. He becomes someone else, someone different every time.

When the new lighthouse keeper arrives, he, of course, as all of us do, makes the place his own. In the course of this settling in, he finds a manuscript titled: The Dreams of Enoch S. Soule. The days are long, and the nights are longer, and soon he is looking forward to the time every day he can spend reading these seemingly deranged writings of a man who is experiencing dreams that would make the most sane among us wonder if Poe’s raven has perched permanently in the halls of our remaining sanity. 

Loneliness can lead to many things: existential dreams, brilliant novels, self-reflection, and madness. Can dreams be caught like a petulant virus from those who dream them? Can madness pass through the inked words of the insane? Are you ceasing to exist even as you read this review? 

Jeffrey Keeten

A wondrous concoction that has a metaphysical edge--exactly the type I've been craving for a while--which pretty soon becomes hard to resist. What type of dream will the lighthouse keeper find himself in next? With a narrative that vacillates between dream world and... another type of world, we find a dynamic type of plot that attains something substantial while dealing with the most intangible, immaterial objects found in THIS world: dreams.

Fabian Molina

I read The Somnabulist's Dreams in one sitting. It is a fascinating tale, sort of like one by Italo Calvino in its intricate weaving of dreams and reality. It has some wonderful descriptions and an intriguing premise about how one guards his/her sanity in a monotonous job as such of a lighthouse keeper as the protagonist of his novel. I found the use of description and the repetition of images (the raven, the bull in Enoch Soule's various hallucinations) to be captivating in their references to Edgar Allen Poe, René Magritte, and most peculiarly David Bowie. There is a certain poetry as well here. And like in Calvino's work - and perhaps I could say Haruki Murakami's as well - a sort of circular structure, or is it a spiral like a seashell? I will be interested to see how Lars' creativity and imagination evolves in his future work as this one certainly kept my attention. I guess I was a little frustrated that it was so short because I really enjoyed particularly the first three dreams. In short, a great novel full of promise. My thanks to Lars for for such a pleasurable reading experience.

Michael Finocchiaro

I just read this novel and loved it!! The intriguing tale of Enoch Soule is one that makes you wonder. Wonder between what is real and what is imagined. The weaving of the ordinary with the extraordinary is seamless and the deft descriptions of the mundane juxtaposed with descriptions of the uncanny and the lucid gives the reader a thrilling read. If you like a novel that keeps you guessing until the end this is for you ! It's hard to believe that this is Mr. Jerlach's first novel. It has a maturity and a complexity that unsettles. Well done sir and I look forward to reading more from you in the future!!

Christian O’Connor

This was a really great read! One of those 'hard to put down' novels. It keeps you completely engaged and the wonderful, agile writing of Jerlach makes you feel like you are actually witnessing the whole scene as it is being described. I loved how the author created this ambiguous sense of time, memory and identity allowing for passages of rich lucidity and unusual combinations that effortlessly appear normal. This masterfully written manuscript has a discreet power to it, one that reminds me of some of the great novels of the past. This is certainly a writer to watch and one who more people should have a chance to discover. I simply cannot recommend this book highly enough!

Sonia Cook-Broen

Jerlach's gothic story is about the ruminations of a light house keeper who is alone on a dark night, reading the dreams of a former light house keeper from sometime in the past. The story is interspersed with the atmospheric routines of the operations of the light house, which build the anticipation for the next dream. The story is ambiguous yet appears to have a connecting thread, making this a surreal gothic work that keeps you guessing. It's a great read, especially at night, and transcends genres. Jerlach's visual arts background adds a richness to his storytelling. I really look forward to future works from this author, and I hope he continues to build on his unique surrealism. I would definitely recommend!

Anonymous review on Amazon

A surreal and phenomenal work of fiction. The work follows the nightly routine of a lone lighthouse operator and his reading of a curious collection of writings. Jumping between layers of fiction, the book unfolds a confrontation with the fluidity of meaning, sense of purpose in life, as well as themes of love, death and sanity. The work is shapeshifting, giving the impression of a historical and cultural landscape of characters, settings and references. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Inner-weaving and recursive, I’d recommend reading this book before bed, or whilst tending a lighthouse

Brandon Cramm

The Somnambulist's Dreams is quick reading yet fascinating story of a man who is assigned to the solitary job of a lighthouse keeper. To pass the time, he finds a collection of stories left by the previous keeper and slowly starts finding the lines of reality and fantasy blurring as it did for the previous keeper. This tale will remind you of an Edgar Allen Poe tale and I think would make a good episode of a show like the Twilight Zone. 

I'd like to thank the author for giving me the opportunity to read his book.

David (Goodreads)

 

EVENTS:

Interview by Debra Cohen on Open Book Post May 30 2017: 

Your book “The Somnambulists Dreams” was very original. One of the things that I enjoyed about it, besides the story itself, was that it was not like other books I have read. It was refreshing to read a book so unique. How did you come up with the idea for your book?

Although the concept was somewhat nebulous at first, I had a fairly good idea about the general structure of the novel, and I knew that the core of the narrative would be about how the solitary mind of a lighthouse keeper with a fixed routine of watch-taking and daily living slowly descent into madness.

I also wanted to create a series of adjacent stories that conceptually weren’t bound by time, history or place to the main narrative, and I decided to write them so that they can be read as stand alone segments, but at the same time interconnect and merge with each other to create a more holistic narrative. That is the main reason I introduced the dream sequence letters, thereby allowing the freedom necessary for the main character to spontaneously wander, but still stay within the actual structure of the lighthouse.

I am particularly interested in the intersection between literary genres, and the fact that The Somnambulist’s Dreams falls into a rather sparsely populated niche between existentialism, gothic and metaphysical, is most likely the reason you say that it was like nothing else you have read.

How long did it take you to write “The Somnambulists Dreams”?

It took me approximately nine months to write the book. I primarily work on my computer, but I’m unfortunately not particularly fast at typing, so it takes me quite a considerable amount of time to get the words down.

Also, I have a tendency to go back and forth and edit the manuscript as I work, which in itself adds a lot of additional time.

Dreams play a big part of your book. Are you a vivid dreamer? i.e. do you remember your dreams?

No, I can’t say that my dreams are especially vivid. They’re generally a lot more fragmented and most certainly never to the level of clarity as those of the protagonist in the novel. However, when I write, I believe there’s a certain creative freedom in dreams that gives me a greater chance to explore the more inaccessible and visionary areas of the human condition.

The cover of your book is beautiful. How did the design of the cover come about?

I am really glad you asked that question. I believe a lot of contemporary books, both in the areas of fiction and nonfiction, suffer from under-designed, uninspiring and sometimes incredibly obscure covers, that often tell you very little about the narrative.

It was essential to me that the cover of The Somnambulist’s Dreams immediately proffered the reader a sense of the story, almost like a visual prologue, so I approached one of my good friends, Kyle Fletcher who’s a freelance designer in Chicago, and asked him if a cover design was something he would be interested in. Fortunately he agreed to work on this project and after he read the first draft of the manuscript, we talked at length about possible designs. Besides his own input, I explained to him the importance of the colours of the ravens, the name and condition of the main character and we quickly settled on the white raven for the front and the black raven for the back as the primary motifs for the design.

He then created, what I believe is a truly compelling and meaningful cover that perfectly illustrates the essence of the book. Also, his beautiful and simple addition of the lighthouse on the spine subtly hints
at the location where the story takes place.

Do you have plans to write another book? If so, are you currently writing a new book?

That’s an interesting and somewhat curious question. I know a lot of people think that writing a novel is an accomplishment in itself and that many writers stop writing after their first successful output. However, I believe that most creative souls whether they’re musicians, visual artists or writers have an urge to produce and to keep producing. Most people that I’ve come across in the creative field are always thinking about, if not already working on, their next project. There are always more stories to tell, more lyrics to write and more paintings to paint. My mind is like that of a hungry rat restlessly prowling an infinite maze, so to answer your question: Yes I am currently writing on my second novel. It is similar in oeuvre to The Somnambulist’s Dreams and stylistically it entails many of the same characteristics. I am using a more or less comparable structure and although the story is different, it will hopefully evoke a variety of indeterminate questions that the reader will then ponder the answers to.

Who are your influences as a writer?

I am of course inspired by a variety of writers both in terms of genre, style, language and narrative and although I have a great affinity for a lot of contemporary writers, it should not come as a big surprise that my work is mostly inspired by writers such as Edgar Allan Poe, Italo Calvino, Albert Camus, Franz Kafka, Stefan Zweig, Flannery O’Connor, Philip K. Dick, Haruki Murakami and my compatriot Willy Sorensen. Although they come from very different literary places, there is no question that they have all in one way or another affected the way I think about writing in terms of language, style, structure, storyline, etc. My literary landscape is also heavily influenced by movies and I’m a great admirer of Kurosawa, Luis Bunuel, Tarkovsky, Fellini, Ridley Scott, Lars Von Trier, the Coen brothers and many many others. I also listen to a variety of classical composers when I write, and I believe that some of the repetitions and variations on already established themes is something that, perhaps subliminally, plays a part in the way I approach writing.

What is your favorite book?

Unless you have only ever read one book in your life, that’s an impossible question to answer. It’s a bit like asking a parent which one of their children is their favorite and although I readily admit it’s a bit of an evasion, I honestly don’t think I can answer a question like that without feeling that I’m betraying at least a handful of other great literary works.

But if you pressed me for an answer and I couldn’t select from the above mentioned authors, I would say it’s probably Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, but if you asked me again tomorrow I might say The Stranger by Albert Camus or Lempriere’s Dictionary by Lawrence Norfolk.

Do you have a writing routine? If so, what is it?

Although I sometimes find it difficult to follow, I suppose I do have a moderately established writing routine. I usually get up quite early in the morning, and after having made sure that the kids are ready for school, I walk the dog and make coffee before I sit down by my desk. Then I normally spend twenty minutes or so reading through the last couple of sections in the manuscript to mentally get myself located in the narrative and think about the next couple of sequences before I start writing.

I see that you are an artist and Professor of Art. Was becoming an Author a natural progression or did you always want to be an Author?

I have always been interested in language as a medium and I have made quite a few art pieces that utilize language as a visual component. However, being a visual artist probably had less of an influence in the progression from artist to author. I was drawn to literature from an early age and in my mid teens I began experimenting with writing, mainly producing a slew of rather trite short stories and novellas that fortunately were never read by anyone else, so becoming an author was quite a natural progression in the end.

When you began writing this book, did you know how it was going to end? For instance, I have read that some authors like to begin a story and see where the writing process takes them. Other
authors know how their book is going to end and need to figure out how to get to that point. What is your approach to telling your/your character’s story?

From the very beginning I had an overarching concept for The Somnambulist’s Dream. I knew where I wanted the story to begin, where it was located, who the protagonist should be and where I imagined the story would end.

However, as I began writing I did allow for the natural fluidity of the writing process to guide me. Although I thought I had a fairly clear idea of the style and structure of the novel, there were certainly some unexpected surprises that arose when I started writing and I definitely had to allow for a bit of flexibility in the narrative to appropriately accommodate the development. Some of the dream sequences changed atmospherically as I was writing them and I certainly introduced elements to the narrative that I hadn’t expected to introduce.

Have you always been intrigued by lighthouses or did you become interested in them after moving to Maine?

I have always been fascinated by the physical structure and tangible function of lighthouses, but perhaps even more so by the austere solitary lives of the people who occupy them. I imagined that the burden of being alone and knowing that it might weeks or even months before a lighthouse keeper sees another person can play some alarming tricks with your mind, and it was this notion that first compelled me to write the story about Enoch Soule.

You have traveled all over the world. What has been your favorite place to visit?

There are so many other countries and cities throughout the world that holds a certain allure, but although I left Denmark more than a quarter century ago and now reside on the East Coast of the US, Copenhagen will always have a unique, irreplaceable and treasured place in my heart.

 

http://openbookpost.com/lars-boye-jerlach/