“I started sleeping with a notebook by the bed to remember my dreams”

Jacinto Lucas Pires 1

Writer Jacinto Lucas Pires says that from the age of 17 a simple notebook by the bed was enough to keep “dreams from immediately dissolving”. Also a screenwriter and a film director, he points out Fellini’s Amarcord and Bergman’s Cries and Whispers.


Literature is full of references to sleep, to sleep disorders, dreams… Why do you think so many writers focus on it?
It is a way of trying to say the unsaid, what is not out there to be seen. When looking for the mystery that defines each person or each city, one has to take a deeper look at dreams, in a more or less metaphorical way.

Which is your favourite literary passage on sleep or dreams?
I especially like the dreams in Roberto Bolaño’s novels and short stories. Though crazy and frantic, these dreams are also incredibly clear; they are sharper than wakefulness, which slowly starts to merge with them.

In writing your books, have sleep and dreams been a source of inspiration?
I do not recall using ideas or motives of my dreams. I do not have the gift of magic realists…! And yet I write dreams. They are a stage inside the characters’ mind. Writing dreams suggests that writing is more involved in language, as if it springs from underneath the skin of words, if I might say so. Dreams are hard. Some writers write dreams “from inside out”, in the form of parables or so, which seems like a mistake to me, or rather a falsehood. I think that dreams are the world falling “inside” of us, and this is very specific – and very delicate too. That is why we find both the unexpected and the recognizable in great dreamers, or rather in great dream tellers.

You are also a screenwriter and a film director. Would you name a scene from a movie involving sleep or dream?
Fellini, Fellini, Fellini! Amarcord – the whole movie. La Strada too: although the movie is not “dream-like”, it has the mythical structure of dreams. In Bergman’s Cries and Whispers, children go to bed accompanied by the wakeful dream of the home animatograph.

Do you ever wake up in the night or in the morning with an idea? Do you usually write it down?
No. But when I was about 17, 18, I could not remember my dreams, unlike my friends, so I started sleeping with a notebook by the bed. Amazingly, the trick worked. All it took was the physical presence of the notebook to keep dreams from immediately dissolving. Actually, I think there is something very similar about writing and dreaming. It is like daydreaming, witnessing what we see.

At what time do you prefer to write?
In the late afternoon or evening.

What do you think about the expression that God does not sleep?
Maybe that expression comes from the lack of dreams.

Have there been situations in your life in which sleep has been good adviser? To what extent?
No doubt. But I cannot say to what extent.

Do you fall asleep easily? Have you ever had insomnia? Are you more of a “night owl” or a “lark”?
I fall asleep easily, but I am more of a night type.

Are you sensitive to sleep hygiene behaviours, such as keeping regular bedtime hours, not drinking coffee, etc.?
Not much. I am somewhat regular in my schedules, because I have small children, and coffee does not seem to spoil my sleep.

Do you recall a funny story – either personal or professional – having to do with sleep or lack thereof?
No. But I always find the classic question “Are you asleep?” very amusing.

Can you tell us about a particularly fanciful dream you have had?
I would have to write a novel!