AS SOON AS YOU CLOSE YOUR EYES, the adventure of sleep begins.
The familiar half-light of the bedroom, a dark volume broken by details, where your memory can easily identify the paths your eyes have followed a thousand times
(retracing them from the opaque square of the window, eliciting the washbasin from a shaft of reflected light and the shelving from the slightly less dark shadow of a book, distinguishing the blacker mass of the hanging clothes),
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gives way, after a while, to a two-dimensional space, something like a board of indefinite extension set at a very shallow angle to the plane of your eyes, as if it were propped not quite vertically on the bridge of your nose; the board might at first seem evenly grey, or rather, neutral, that is to say shapeless and colourless, but probably quite quickly turns out to possess at least two properties: the first is that it becomes more or less dark
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the upper area is manifestly darker, whereas the lower area, which, to you, appears nearer (although, of course, the notions of proximity and distance, above and below, in front and behind, have already ceased to be altogether precise) is, on the one hand, much greyer, not, that is to say, much more neutral as you initially believe,
but actually much whiter, and, on the other hand, contains, or supports, one, two, or several bag-like objects, or capsules, a little how you imagine, for example, a tear gland to be, with thin, ciliated edges, and within which, quivering, twitching, writhing, are some intensely white flashes, some of them extremely thin, like infinitely fine stripes, others much thicker, almost fat, like maggots.
As soon as your attention lingers on them too long, and it is virtually impossible to avoid this, since, after all, they are dancing in front of you and all the rest scarcely exists, indeed, all that is really perceptible is the hinge of your eyebrows and the very vague, more or less perceptible twodimensional space in which the darkness stretches away unevenly, but as soon as you look at them, although this word, of course, no longer
means anything, as soon as you attempt, let us say, to satisfy yourself a little as to their form, or their substance, or a detail, you can be sure to find yourself back again, your eyes open, across from the window, itself an opaque rectangle becoming a square again, in spite of the fact that these little bags bear no
resemblance to it whatsoever.
However, they reappear almost as soon as you close your eyes again, and with them the more or less sloping space hinged to your eyebrows, and, in all likelihood, they haven't changed since the last time. But you cannot be absolutely sure on this last point, for, after an interval of time which it is difficult to estimate, and although nothing enables you to affirm that they have actually disappeared, you are able to note that they
have grown considerably paler. Now you are dealing with a kind of streaky grey drizzle, still part of this same space which is an extension more or less of your eyebrows, but distorted, apparently, to the point where it is constantly veering to the left; you can look at it, explore it, without shattering the whole, without causing yourself to wake up immediately, but this is not in the least bit interesting. It is on the right that something is taking place, a plank as it happens, somewhat behind, somewhat above, somewhat to the right.
You can't see the plank, obviously.
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All you know is that it is hard, although you are not on it, since, precisely, you are on something that is very soft, and that something is your body. Then suddenly a truly amazing phenomenon occurs: first, there are three spaces which it is quite impossible to confuse, your body-bed which is soft, horizontal and white, then the bar of your eyebrows which controls a grey, mediocre, slanting space, and finally the plank, which is immobile and very hard on top, parallel to you, and perhaps within reach. Indeed, it is clear — even if by now this is the only thing that is - that if you clamber up on to the plank, you will sleep, that the plank is sleep itself.
The principle of the operation is simplicity itself, even though you have every reason to believe that it will take you quite some time to accomplish: you would have to reduce the bed and the body to a single point, a marble, or perhaps, which amounts to the same thing, boil down the flaccidity of the body, concentrating it into a single spot, into one of the lumbar vertebrae, for example.
But now the body no longer exhibits the fine unity that it possessed a moment ago: in fact it is spreading out in every direction.
without even knowing it yourself for certain, but it is too late, every time it is too late, and has been for a very long time, and, a strange consequence this, the bar of your eyebrows breaks in two, and in the middle,
right between your eyes, as if this hinge had held everything else together, and as if all the force of the hinge were focused on this one spot, a precise and unmistakably conscious pain suddenly starts up, a pain which you recognise immediately as being nothing more extraordinary than a headache.
To want nothing. Just to wait, until there is nothing left to wait for. Just to wander, and to sleep. To let yourself be carried along by the crowds, and the streets. To follow the gutters, the fences, the water’s edge. To walk the length of the embankments, to hug the walls. To waste your time. To have no projects, to feel no impatience. To be without desire, or resentment, or revolt.
You see yourself, you see yourself seeing yourself, you watch yourself watching yourself. Even if you were to wake up, your vision would remain the same, immutable. Even if you managed to grow thousands, billions of extra eyelids, there would still be this eye, behind, which would see you. You are not asleep but sleep will never come again. You are not awake and you will never wake up. You are not dead and even death could never set you free.
It is on a day like this one, a little later, a little earlier, that you discover, without surprise, that something is wrong, that, without mincing words, you don't know how to live, that you will never know.
What they liked in things they called luxury was only the money behind them; they loved wealth before they loved life.
Three-quarters of your body has taken refuge in your head; your heart has taken up residence in your eyebrow where it now feels quite at home, where it is beating like a living creature, albeit, perhaps, at the very most, a little too quickly. You will have to conduct a roll-call of your body, to check that your limbs, your organs, your entrails, your mucous membranes are all intact. You would really like to clear your head of all these pieces that are cluttering it up and weighing it down, but at the same time, you congratulate yourself on having saved as much as you could, for everything else is lost, you no longer have any feet, or hands, your
calf-muscle has turned to jelly.
there are bits missing, others are duplicated, others still have grown outrageously large, and yet others are voicing utterly insane territorial claims: your elbow is more an elbow than ever, you had forgotten just how elbow-like an elbow could be, a fingernail has supplanted your
And this, naturally, is always the moment that the torturers choose to intervene. One of them stuffs a chalk-filled sponge into your mouth, another bungs up your ears with cotton wool; a few pit-sawyers have set to work in your sinus passages, a pyromaniac is on the loose in your stomach, sadistic tailors compress your feet, force your head into a hat which is too small, cram you into an overcoat that is too tight, strangle you with a necktie; a sweep and his sidekick have introduced a knotted rope into your windpipe and, despite their
best efforts, are unable to withdraw it.
They come almost every time. You know them well. It is almost reassuring. If they have arrived, it means that sleep cannot be too far off. They will make you suffer a little, then they'll get bored and leave you alone.
They hurt you, that goes without saying, but you have, with regard to pain, as with all the sensations you perceive, all the thoughts that cross your mind, all the impressions you feel, an attitude of complete detachment. You see yourself without astonishment being astonished, without surprise being surprised, without pain being assaulted by the torturers. You wait for them to calm down. You willingly concede to them
whatever organs they want. You watch them from afar arguing over your stomach, your nose, your throat, your feet.