The Untranslatability of Dreams


  • K. Narayana Chandran, University of Hyderabad, India



This short meditation on dreamwork-narrative wonders why dreams are not easily translated. It takes off from Derrida’s remark in Writing and Difference that “since the materiality of the signifier constitutes the idiom of every dream scene, dreams are untranslatable†(210). Working through a secular, a Hindu and a Buddhist parable respectively, this essay considers 5 possible explanations for the untranslatability of dreams. It proposes that there might be no material to translate, as in the fiction whose “materiality†we assume and which we are used to reading and interpreting in broad daylight. Dreams however continue to be immaterial while the translator works away at his desk. We haven’t yet known it as either material “work†or “text,†so there might yet be no need to trouble ourselves with the death of its author.


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Author Biography

K. Narayana Chandran, University of Hyderabad, India

K. Narayana Chandran is Professor of English at the School of Humanities, University of Hyderabad, India. He has published more than a hundred papers in journals and periodicals in English, comparative literature, language studies, translation and English in India. The last he considers an area where he has contributed by way of articles and projects involving himself and his research students.




How to Cite

Chandran, University of Hyderabad, India, K. N. (2011). The Untranslatability of Dreams. Asiatic: IIUM Journal of English Language and Literature, 5(1), 20–27.