The Eyelid

By (author): S.D. Chrostowska

In Greater America, with sleep under siege, this lucid and prophetic novel of ideas depicts the end of human reverie.

An unnamed, unemployed, dream-prone narrator finds himself following Chevauchet, diplomat of Onirica, a foreign republic of dreams, to resist a prohibition on sleep in near-future Greater America. On a mission to combat the state-sponsored drugging of citizens with uppers for greater productivity, they traverse an eerie landscape in an everlasting autumn, able to see inside other people’s nightmares and dreams. As Comprehensive Illusion – a social media-like entity that hijacks creativity – overtakes the masses, Chevauchet, the old radical, weakens and disappears, leaving our narrator to take up Chevauchet’s dictum that “daydreaming is directly subversive” and forge ahead on his own.

In slippery, exhilarating, and erudite prose, The Eyelid revels in the camaraderie of free thinking that can only happen on the lam, aiming to rescue a species that can no longer dream.

“A slight but quick-witted and thoughtful philosophical parable that falls somewhere between Camus and Gaiman’s Sandman universe.” —Kirkus Reviews

“S. D. Chrostowska’s The Eyelid is a brilliant, visionary satire on the digital mindscape of twenty-first-century late capitalism embodied in the new global state of Greater America. Insomnia is in; dreams are seditious; sleep is outlawed. Lulled by false fantasies projected by Artificial Intelligence (CI in the book), video games, and media collaborators, humans drug themselves to stay awake so they can slave through the now standard twenty-hour work days. Witty, oracular, Surreal, trenchant, politically astute, and often hilarious, The Eyelid is a throwback to the classics of the genre, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Samuel Butler’s Erewhon. We are turning into a race of sleep-deprived automatons, Chrostowska warns, increasingly unable to mount political opposition or even dream a different future.” —Douglas Glover


S.D. Chrostowska

S. D. Chrostowska is Professor of Humanities and Social & Political Thought at York University, Toronto. She is the author of Literature on Trial: The Emergence of Critical Discourse in Germany, Poland, and Russia, 1700-1800 (2012); Permission: A Novel (2013); and Matches: A Light Book (2015, 2nd enlarged ed. 2019), and co-editor of Political Uses of Utopia: New Marxist, Anarchist, and Radical Democratic Perspectives (2017). She currently lives in Toronto. 


“The novel, of course, is a warning of what is to come or what in large part has already come for us, its readers. Where do the opacities of sleep and the images and tales that our dreams are full of find reference in the world we inhabit?” —Leonardo

“Determined readers will revel in the sheer fecundity of ideas in this fiercely imaginative acid trip of an allegory.” –Publishers Weekly

“A slight but quick-witted and thoughtful philosophical parable that falls somewhere between Camus and Gaiman’s Sandman universe.” –Kirkus Reviews

The Eyelid spins a rich and rewarding political fantasy out of this anxiety over the colonization of dreams and the subconscious by corporate power.” –Toronto Star

“This is a novel of ideas and warnings, not a simple theoretical thriller that blooms in the mind as an ephemeral bottle rocket only to fizzle and leave the reader seeking the next entertainment.” –The Rupture

“S. D. Chrostowska’s The Eyelid is an exquisite piece of literature which might well become an instant cult book until it makes its way to a much deserved place at the top of any list of utopian-dystopian fiction masterworks.” –Full Stop

“S. D. Chrostowska achieves unexpected buoyancy in spite of the intensity of her material. Permission, certain to be among the most formally adventurous books published this year, will thrill readers of fearless stylists like Blanchot, Barthes, and Anne Carson. In its obsessive intricacy, it evokes even earlier forbears: those wonderfully melancholy European humanists, Thomas Browne and Robert Burton.’ Every Library is a haunted cemetery,’ writes F. Wren, the narrator of Permission. This fine and perplexing novel is itself something between a library and a cemetery, spinning around the hauntings of desire, the confusions of memory, the ambiguities of solitude and, above all, the mystery of writing.” –Teju Cole

“Always provocative, Chrostowska investigates the notion that dreaming itself can be a subversive act.” –Steven W. Beattie, Quill & Quire


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Chapter Six

He introduced himself as ‘Chevauchet, diplomat.’ The card he handed me, folded in half as if in confidence, gave his position as ‘Ambassador of the Free Republic of Onirica,’ a state, he promptly offered, virtually unknown because lacking international recognition.

        In my peripheral vision, grown sharper, I thought I saw a silhouette on standby in the rushes. In the old days, in another era, a passeur ferried children to the rocky island over the water.

        ‘As you well know,’ said the Ambassador, interrupting my nascent reverie, ‘there are many sovereign entities to whom status has historically been refused. Our republic is the last of them. It is the most foreign and the most unrecognized.’

        The idea of such a scorned, outlying place resonated with me. Although I had grown up being told that I lived in the world’s very centre, I always suspected its true navel to be elsewhere.

        ‘You might not have any official and diplomatic relations with it now. But records show that most people still visit Onirica regularly and compulsively, if increasingly on the sly, keeping quiet about your travels, which, fortunately for you, require neither visas nor passports.

        ‘You might think this would be bad for business. But for Onirica, a little outside trade with the so-called real world goes a long way. And its economy does not rely on foreign tourism. Better yet, what you leave behind and what treasures or memorabilia you bring back from your trip are yours alone. Somehow this always feels like smuggling, doesn’t it? When there is really nothing to declare!

        ‘My mission is twofold,’ he resumed after a brief pause. ‘To have our special statehood recognized at the highest level and as soon as possible. Then, having achieved this, and in the longer term, to work with all nations, all peoples, toward the final dissolution of the state form.’

        His overture intrigued me not a little. Not only had I personally never travelled to the country he spoke of; I could not recall ever having heard of the place. And when I admitted my ignorance as to which part of the world Onirica was in, his reply was as enigmatic as the one he gave to my first question.

Chapter Seven

‘Too close,’ he again said with emphasis, more to himself this time. And, taking his hand out of his coat pocket, he cast into the lake something dark whose nature or even shape I could not make out but which, judging by the sound it had made, was a small stone or a large pebble. I made nothing of this inexplicable act, content rather in having provoked something in my bench-fellow. As starlings in flight, my thoughts swerved from him to the metaphors I knew for disappearance, remembering the expression to vanish into thin air having, in another language, its equivalent in Ia stone being lost in water, and how water closes around a sinking object like an eyelid. So Onirica lay a stone’s throw away, did it? Not even across the pond? ‘Then let it stay there,’ I murmured spitefully to myself. ‘Let it rot at the bottom of a lake.’

        Casting about for something to say in return, I soon appreciated the eloquence of his wordless gesture. Though I had neither the courage nor the interest to launch into more questions, the idea of responding in kind suddenly seemed appealing. I waited for an appropriate rejoinder to come to me, wallowing as I did so in another thought, this one about the ephemeral and somewhat unreal character of conversations. The few words I had exchanged with Ambassador Chevauchet were already fading from my memory. All that kept me from pronouncing them imaginary, besides his stubborn presence next to me and the cloud of his breath, was their warmth. They seemed significant upon being spoken but carried less weight than the stone providing punctuation and brought less clarity than the snow, which fell only to be swept away by his hand. Next to this, my confirmed inertia transformed me, in my own mind, into a fossil, so that I started when his tongue again took up the thread I had wrongly supposed broken.

        ‘Onirica is a beautiful place, and you seem right at home in it.’

Reader Reviews



144 Pages

0.46lb0.4in5.0in * 8.0in


April 14, 2020


Coach House Books



Book Subjects:

FICTION / Political



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