` Queer Dreambook


The Great Eternal Queer Dreambook

(Veliki vječiti kvir sanovnik)

2016. Publishers: Queer Montenegro, Aquamarine Press, Podgorica,

Series Experiments / 87 pages / ISBN: 978-9940-9519-3-1


free electronic book:








The Queer Dreambook is based upon classic dreambooks (sanovnici, sanjarice) found in many households, libraries, bookstores and antiques shops, as key parts of “Eternal Folk Calendars” (Vječiti narodni kalendari). Classic dreambooks are compilations of so-called traditional and folk knowledge concerning the meanings of dreams, and they have been used in the former Yugoslav countries for a long time. Many people often consult the classic dreambooks, which can presently be found either in online or book form.

The knowledge the dreambooks offer is not necessarily literally true – for instance, to dream of a monster does not necessarily mean that you will definitely face some kind of failure in real life. Yet, regardless of their truth value, the dreambooks are socially effective. Some people do not believe in the knowledge offered by the dreambooks, some partly believe it, while others believe in them whilst taking a rational stance, understanding the dreambooks as one approach among many to interpreting dreams. Despite this (lack of) belief in dreambooks, most people have had at least one opportunity to read them.

Dreambooks shape, to some extent, our understanding of the relationship between certain concepts and spheres of life. Dreambooks codify particular links between concepts, for instance, by suggesting that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between dreaming of a monster and experiencing some kind of failure at work: i.e. if you dream of a monster (cause), you will face a failure at work whilst awake (consequence). Some of the conceptual links codified by the classic dreambooks are imaginative and innovative (for instance, to dream of a watermelon indicates jealousy); some are archaic, since they reflect 19th century everyday life. This period was when dreambooks were first created as a form of knowledge and a genre of writing. For example, to dream of a duvet or a mattress indicates lordship and being well-off when awake – this conceptual link made sense back in the age when having a duvet was a sign of material prosperity and security. Some may be funny or subtly sexual (for instance, to dream of firefighters indicates that your wishes will be fulfilled).

However, many conceptual links offered by the classic dreambooks are very clearly heterosexist, patriarchal, racist, and/or nationalist.

According to many classic dreambooks, dreaming of beating your wife suggests that she is cheating on you, while engaging in a physical argument with your wife suggests a forthcoming fight in the home. In copy and pasting such entries from one edition to the next, dreambooks have reproduced conceptual links between fidelity and gender violence diachronically. In so doing they have helped normalize the idea that love, fidelity, or infidelity has something to do with violence. In a similar fashion, many entries in classic dreambooks have normalized the idea that marriage is the highest form that love can and should take – thus making invisible and inferior all the gay, lesbian, or straight couples who legally cannot, or ideologically may not want to get married. Classic dreambooks suggests that dreaming of Roma travelling-home is a sign of a possible robbery, whilst dreaming of the fez is a sign of “scarcity and sorrow”.

All of this suggests that classical dreambooks are neither politically naïve nor innocent. As playfully imaginative and interesting as they may be, dreambooks codify certain expectations and ideas about men and women, sexuality, love, nationality, race, religion, class, and so forth. The “Queer Dreambook” is the result of a team effort to retain the imaginative, interesting, and intellectually provocative frames of knowledge offered by classic dreambooks, whilst erasing or transforming their politically problematic elements. It was created through the joint efforts of around fifteen people, mostly experts in ethnology and anthropology, as well as those with a strong knowledge of a variety of other subjects, including gender studies, sociology, literary studies, and medicine. The members of the team who made the “Queer Dreambook” come from Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia – some of the countries where dreambooks are widely used in everyday life, reprinted and published.

Those involved chose one, or several letters in which they made their interventions, with the aim of transforming heterosexist, patriarchal, and racist links. Different people in the team noticed different things. Some members of the team had a problem with entries which suggested that dreaming of a person with some kind of a disability indicates something bad; others had a problem with entries which relied on ethno-national stereotypes; whilst others had a problem with entries which interpreted various animals in a negative manner. After individual work completed on all of the letters, the Queer Dreambook was copyedited and proofread. Generally speaking, we wanted to follow the logic and the language of classic dreambooks, so that their problematic elements would be transformed, without the transformation being overt.

Let me now explain the kinds of interventions we made, through several examples.

Classic dreambooks often offer an interpretation of what it means to dream of “watching a rape” or of “raping”, but not of surviving it. Whilst sexual violence is codified as a concept and as a word in many classic dreambooks, consensual sexual relationships are hidden behind the phrase “love experience” and only explicitly mentioned when talking of “losing one’s virginity” or of “giving yourself to someone” (considered to signify “a great shame”, and that “only danger awaits you for making such a mistake”, respectively). In the Queer Dreambook, all of the entries referring to rape were deleted, because we believe that it is completely unacceptable to codify a brutal crime with a singular meaning. Rape is not only a criminal act, but also an incredibly traumatic event, after which every survivor searches in their own way to attribute meanings to and understand their traumatic experiences. The entries referring to “wife-beating” were also deleted. Additionally, titles such as “losing one’s virginity” and “giving yourself to someone” were transformed, because no consensual sexual act – the first, the thousand and first, lesbian, gay, straight, marital or not, between two or more people, with a long-term partner or someone you have just met – should be considered a shameful act, neither in the Queer Dreambook nor beyond it.

Furthermore, classic dreambooks suggest that dreaming of an uncle signifies “a sudden celebration”, whilst dreaming of an aunt signifies “a family fight”. Here, an uncle, as a male consanguine relative, is linked with something nice. On the other hand, an aunt, as an affinal female relative (the person who supposedly has to “enter” the husband’s house), symbolizes a fight. This interpretation was transformed in the Queer Dreambook, because jealousy and animosity between women present one of the key mechanisms for reproducing patriarchy. Such affects can prevent women from articulating mutual solidarity and from potentially challenging the structures which threaten them. The fact that women often allow that their mutual relationships to be regulated through jealousy, animosity, and competition is one of the great tricks of patriarchy – which we can challenge through a politics of solidarity and friendship with other women. In the Queer Dreambook, an aunt is not a symbol of a struggle, but of gifts – the ultimate way to materialize intangible social relationships in everyday life.

Besides transforming misogynous entries, we have also included several new terms in the Queer Dreambook in order to make non-heterosexual practices more visible. This means that in the Queer Dreambook you can read about what dreaming of something related to a muželožnik or adžuvan (archaic terms for a gay man) might signify, and as well as the meanings associated with dreaming of a ženeložnica (a lesbian) or džuvljarka (a lesbian in the Roma language). Jasmina Čaušević played a great role in conceptualizing this part of the Queer Dreambook and she has helped to forge a new term for bisexual persons: suguboložnik / suguboložnica (sugubo means “bi”, or “both” in the Old Church Slavonic language). There are also entries explaining what it means to dream of indulging in a rukoblud (an archaic term for masturbation). In addition, registered life partnerships and romantic relationships have been added to the entries mentioning marriage; break-ups and separations have been added to those referring to divorce, and so forth.

In making an effort to intervene in the glorification of marriage and heteronormativity, as well as the violent conceptualization of sex in the classic dreambooks – the Queer Dreambook follows their linguistic codes. Therefore, just as in a classic dreambook, the phrase “love experience” in the Queer Dreambook refers to sex, while “love fire” is another term for passion.

Some of the ethno-national and racial categories were deleted, whilst others were kept, in accordance with the different ideas of our team members. We kept some of the entries which were clearly stereotypes (such as an “Eskimo”, or “a black person”), since this minimizes the impression that everyday life in the former Yugoslav countries is necessarily white.

Generally speaking, the “Queer Dreambook” is a public intervention which aims to cut off some of the deeply oppressive conceptual links existing in post-Yugoslav cultural heritage and the traditional local knowledge present in former Yugoslav countries, as well as offering other conceptual links, which are less unjust, but equally grounded in the everyday practices of the dreamers who will read this Dreambook.

The Queer Dreambook was created out of a conviction that cultural heritage is not a frozen, unchangeable, clearly defined corpus of knowledge which experts simply need to describe, keep, and pass on. It interweaves ethnological and anthropological knowledge (as well as knowledge of gender studies, feminism, literature, and sociology) with the existing corpus of traditional knowledge, in order to make the dreambook more open for different people who have had diverse experiences and find themselves in unequal positions in society.

Finally, why did we choose to call it the Queer Dreambook? Its name directly refers to “queer theory” (see Džagouz 2007) as well as to the name of the organization “Queer Montenegro”, one of the publishers of the Dreambook. Perhaps the best translation of the term “queer” in the former Yugoslav countries is the word “kvar”, that is, “a technical term literally translating to mean ‘a malfunction in a machine’, because in this world of capitalism, nationalism, racism, militarism, sexism and homophobia, we want to celebrate ourselves as a malfunction in this machine” (Queer Belgrade collective, cited in Dioli 2009: 34).

In line with this idea of queering cultural heritage, the Queer Dreambook is linguistically promiscuous. Some of the dream interpretations were written in  Montenegrin, some in Bosnian, some in Croatian, and some in Serbian. The choice of who worked on which letter was made randomly, and the authors’ interventions generally followed the language norms in which they usually speak and write.


Čarna Brković


Cited References

Dioli, Irene. 2009. Back to a Nostalgic Future: The Queeroslav Utopia. Sextures 1 (1):24-42.

Džagouz, Anamari. 2007. Queer Teorija: Uvod. Beograd: Centar za ženske studije.


Edited by:
Čarna Brković



Bosnia and Herzegovina: Marko Barišić, Jasmina Čaušević, Vanja Čelebičić

Montenegro: Maja Bogojević, Čarna Brković, Miloš Đurović, Danilo Martinović, Dragana Tripković

Croatia: Andrew Hodges, Lea Horvat, Vedrana Lovrinčić

Serbia: Bojan Bilić, Olga Dimitrijević, Igor Koruga, Dunja Njaradi, Marina Simić


Language editing:

Bosnian: Sandra Zlotrg

Croatian: Lea Horvat

Montenegrin: Dragana Tripković

Serbian: Marina Simić


Graphic design:

Vanja Gagović



„Veliki večiti kalendar“, Milan T. Vuković i grupa saradnika. Beograd, 2004.

„Veliki večiti kalendar”, Dimitrije Mihajlović. Beograd: Jugoslavenska novinska agencija dokumentacije pres kliping, 1980.

„Veliki večiti kalendar", Dimitrije Mihajlović. Beograd: Nova knjiga, 1988.