June 2015 | Nate Pedersen

Scholars Discover Alternate Ending to Schnitzler's Dream Story


Scholars at Cambridge University have uncovered an alternate ending to Austrian dramatist and novelist Arthur Schnitzler's 1925 novella Traumnovelle or Dream Story. The erotically charged story - one of the most risque published in European fiction by the early 20th century - was later adapted into the film "Eyes Wide Shut" by Stanley Kubrick in 1999. It follows the psychological transformation of a Viennese doctor who attends an orgy after his wife confesses to sexual fantasies involving another man.

Traumnovelle was first published in installments in the magazine Die Dame between 1925 and 1926.  In the story's original ending, the doctor confesses to having attended the orgy, however the wife tells him not to worry and they move on from the transgressions. However, in an alternative ending, discovered recently by scholars at Cambridge University amongst the novelist's papers, the wife chases the doctor out of the house after his confession. The alternate version also suggests that the doctor participated in - rather than simply observed - the masked orgy.

The discovery was the first breakthrough in a new international project, involving researchers from Cambridge University as well as institutions in Germany and Austria, to decipher Schnitzler's 40,000 sheets of handwritten notes held at Cambridge. Schnitzler's papers were almost lost in WWII, however were saved by the intervention of a 23 year old Cambridge graduate who happened to be in Vienna on the eve of the Anschluss. A British seal was placed on Schnitzler's door and his papers were spared burning in the Nazi book fires. Schnitzler had, in the meantime, fled to America, not returning to Austria until 1959.