Nightmare scenarios

<strong>The Garden of Bad Dreams</strong>

Christopher Hope <em>Atlantic Books, 144pp, £12.99</em>

Spun from the jumbled reality of dreams, Hope’s 13 short stories explore the shifting shores of sexual jealousy, identity and bizarre obsessions. His characters display a bloody-minded and often absurdly comic commitment to their various fixations. A circus performer in Budapest chases his fantasy to re-create a theatre of Lilliputians, and a Serbian monk with an addiction to building (known as “masonmania”) does battle with a mountain. In London, a banker strikes back at his wife’s lover with a succession of bitter postcards.

But it is when Hope conjures up images of entire communities wilfully submitting to the irrational – such as the city which worships a monkey called Gus – that the dangers of delusion become apparent. “What is Gus trying to say to us?” wonder the gorilla gods’ self-appointed disciples.

The allegories and symbols that Hope uses are frequently far from lucid. White marble lions blend confusingly with carnivorous vegetarians – though only the most reluctant psychoanalyst will be able to ignore the gun-wielding wives and wall-building husbands. Eclectic and unsettling, this fascinating collection reveals certain aspects of the human mind that most of us prefer to bury in our dreams.