Dreaming En Français

I’ve just done a post over at the Translation Awards website about a new fiction webzine that will publish in both French and English (thanks to the wonderful World SF News for the tip-off) and have found myself intrigued by the name of the project.

The ‘zine is called Onirismes. Translation services render this as Dreams, but there is a more common French word for dream, rêve. Clearly the word is derived from the Greek word for dreams, Oneiroi, but the only place that root appears in common usage in French appears to be the word onirique, which means dreamlike. Onirismes, then, are perhaps things that appear to be dreams, but are not, which I think is a lovely way to describe speculative fiction stories.

Are there any French-speakers out there who can elucidate?

9 thoughts on “Dreaming En Français

  1. Not a French speaker, but my Harraps Shorter English and French dictionary gives ‘(state of) hallucination’ for onirisme. Which would make a degree of sense.

  2. I should probably let Aliette de Bodard do this one, but I’ll take a first shot.

    A common French word is “onirique,” which is an adjective that means “dream-like” or “imaginary” but is tinged with a sense of the fantastic, a feeling of almost (but not quite) hallucinatory wonder.

    Things that might be described (at least by me) as onirique would be drawings by Rackham, the Lyonesse trilogy by Vance, the film Fantasia…

    “Onirisme” exists as a noun, but in my experience it is rare. The sense of the word (again, to me) is more technical, something along the lines of “things having to do with dreams.” It is also a medical term that indicates a state of dream-like hallucinations.

    Hopefully someone else can step in and better clarify. Either way, it’s a great name for a fiction webzine.

    1. Jeff, I’m flattered you’d think me more effective at translation 😉 (it’s really not my strong suit). Your definition is pretty much accurate, as far as I’m concerned.
      For me (and we’re talking connotations here, beyond the dictionary definitions), “onirique” is anything having to do with dreams, and it’s come to mean anything to do with unreality. It means dream-like, with a sort of hallucinatory quality–but not in a bad way, more in a soft, gentle way that embodies a slight but necessary detachment from reality. It’s not appropriate, for instance, to refer to nightmares: it’s mostly gentle dreams in which the world is slightly out of kilter, but not in a harmful or traumatising way.
      “onirismes” doesn’t exist per se, but my interpretation as a native speaker would pretty much instantly be “things which are ‘orinique'”
      It’s a very effective name for a spec fic magazine (and doubles as a pretty good one for any literature, come to think of it).

  3. Onirisme is effectively rare (onirique is far more common), it bears a meaning more akin to hallucinations except this happens while sleeping (hallucinations are normally happening while awake).

  4. According to the French wiktionary the definition of onirisme is “the mental state in which one takes dreams for reality”

    Onirique’s definition is “Related to dreams”

  5. Bonjour
    Je suis français (a real one, from the suburbs of Paris), so please forgive my written english (i may make mistakes or write sentences that may be hard to understand, if not nonsense).
    Rene’s definition is good, but it is a special use of the word in psychiatry (medical), it is not the common use.
    Aliette’s definition is good.
    “Onirisme” is a poetic word for dreams or dream-like.
    Onirisme is a territory you can go to by dreaming : a world of dreams, of faeries, of fertile imagination. You get back from there with feelings of wonder, of amazement. It is quite like being high.
    The onirisme of a novel (or a movie, or a painting) is the ability to make the spectator/reader dive and glide in a dream-like universe.
    For me, most of fantasy books do have onirisme, while most of SF doesn’t (because of the logical/rational “down-to-earth” explanations).
    There is the vertigo from how you think, the SF sense of wonder.
    And there is the vertigo of how you feel, wich is Onirisme, the opposite of down-to-earth.

  6. Hi guys,

    Just wanted to thank Cheryl and everyone who commented here. I’m glad you like the name. I hope you’ll like the stories too. We’re putting a lot of work into Onirismes right now, and hope to publish a first issue in early 2011.

    thanks again for the interest,
    Julien @ Onirismes

  7. Aliette, Jérôme: Merci beaucoup, that’s just the sort of feedback I was hoping for.

    Julien: Bonne chance, I hope the magazine is very successful.

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