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This is the first line of 夏目漱石's story 第一夜, The first night. The story then goes on to describe the narrator's dream.

It is translated as "I had dream" but I am struggling to align the normal meaning of こんな (This kind of...) to the story.

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I feel you are letting your own translated English words get in the way --- "this kind of". Even though, 「こんな[夢]{ゆめ}」 CAN mean "this kind of dream" if it were used in another context, that is not what it means in this one.

For 「こんな夢」 to mean "this kind of dream", one generally needs to have already explained to the readers what kind of dream it was in the context.

In this story, 「こんな夢を見た」 is the first sentence. My own translation would be something like:

"I had a dream that went like this."

You cannot use 「この夢」, either, unless you have already explained what the dream was like. If you said 「この夢を見た。」 out of nowhere, Japanese-speakers would reply 「どの夢?」、「何の夢?」、「どの夢のこと?」, 「えっ、何のこと?」 etc.

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1. (Thank you) That makes sense and it probably solves other occasions I have struggled to understand why こんな is used but Interestingly in English I prefer the existing translation: I can imagine some people saying "it went like this" but it has a colloquial feel to it. – Tim Jan 29 '14 at 15:08
2. I was initially not quite sure why you say Japanese speakers will reply 「どの夢」but not 「どんな夢」. However my text book (完全マスターN3文法)tells me that whereas この is used to define limit or specify, こんな is used to refer to a state or condition. -> This is consistent with your explanation because we cannot define something AND mention it for the first time in the same sentence (QED). [Not sure if this comment is helpful for others but I will leave it for anybody trying to use the same textbook.] – Tim Jan 29 '14 at 15:55

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