Now you have run out of hiding places. You are afraid. You are waiting for everything to stop, the rain, the hours, the stream of traffic, life, people, the world; waiting for everything to collapse, walls, towers, floors and ceilings, men and women, old people and children, dogs, horses, birds, to fall to the ground, paralysed, plague-ridden, epileptic; waiting for the marble to crumble away, for the wood to turn to pulp, for the houses to collapse noiselessly, for the diluvian rains to dissolve the paintwork, pull apart the joints in hundred-year-old wardrobes, tear the fabric to shreds, wash away the newspaper ink, waiting for the fire without flames to consume the stairs, waiting for the streets to subside and split down the middle to reveal the gaping labyrinth of the sewers; waiting for the dust and mist to invade the city.
– Georges Perec, The Man Who Sleeps/A Man Asleep
‘Time seems shorter when one is talking’, said the girl.
‘And then afterwards, suddenly, much longer.’
‘Yes, like another kind of time. But it does one good to talk.’
‘Yes, it does one good. It is only afterwards that it is rather sad: after one has stopped talking. Then time becomes too slow. Perhaps one should never talk.’
‘Perhaps’, said the girl after a pause.
‘Only because of the slowness afterwards: that was all I meant.’
‘And perhaps because of the silence to which we are both returning.’
‘Yes, it is true that we are both returning to silence. It seems as though we are already there.’
–Duras, The Square (tr. Pitt-Rivers and Morduch)
You are not dead and you are no wiser … You have learned nothing, except that solitude teaches you nothing, except that indifference teaches you nothing … Indifference is futile. Your refusal is futile. Your neutrality is meaningless. You believe that you are just passing by, drifting through the city, dogging the footsteps of the crowd, entering the play of shadows and cracks, but nothing has happened: no miracle, no explosion. With each passing day your patience has worn thinner. Time would have to stand still, but no one has the strength to fight against time. You may have cheated, snitching a few seconds, a few seconds … But the game is over. The world has not stirred and you have not changed. Indifference has not made you any different. You are not dead. You have not gone mad. There is no curse hanging over you … No one is condemning you and you have committed no offence. Time, which sees to everything, has provided the solution, despite yourself. Time, that knows the answer, has continued to flow. It is on a day like this one, a little later, a little earlier, that everything starts again, that everything starts, that everything continues … You are afraid. You are waiting. You are waiting, on Place Clichy, for the rain to stop falling.
— Georges Perec, The Man Who Sleeps/A Man Asleep
Unhappiness did not swoop down on you, it insinuated itself almost ingratiatingly. It impregnated your life, your movements, the hours you keep, your room. It took possession of the cracks in the ceiling, of the lines in your face in the cracked mirror, of the pack of cards. It slipped furtively into the dripping tap on the landing, it echoed with the quarter-hour chimes from the bell of Saint-Roch. The snare was that feeling which, on occasion, came close to exhilaration, that arrogance: you thought the city was all you needed, its stones and its streets, the crowds that carried you along. You thought you needed only a stall in some local cinema, you thought you only needed your room, your lair, your burrow.
— Georges Perec, The Man Who Sleeps/A Man Asleep
Your alarm clock goes off, you do not stir, you remain in your bed, you close your eyes again. It is not a premeditated action, or rather it’s not an action at all, but an absence of action, an action that you don’t perform, actions that you avoid performing. You went to bed early, you slept peacefully, you had set the alarm clock, you heard it go off, you waited for it to go off, for several minutes at least, already woken by the heat, or by the light, or by expectation itself. You do not move; you will not move. Someone else, your twin, conscientious double is perhaps performing in your stead, one by one, the actions you have eschewed: he gets up, washes, shaves, dresses, goes out. You let him bound down the stairs, run down the street, leap onto the moving bus, arrive on time, out of breath but triumphant, at the doors in the hall. You get up too late…
— Georges Perec, The Man Who Sleeps
‘One morning’, wrote Reb Assad, ‘sitting up in bed, I noticed that I had overnight been sawed apart from top to bottom. Ever since, I have vainly tried to save both halves of myself.’
— Jabés, The Book of Questions (tr. Waldrop)
There is no looking glass here and I don’t know what I am like now. I remember watching myself brush my hair and how my eyes looked back at me. The girl I saw was myself yet not quite myself. Long ago when I was a child and very lonely I tried to kiss her. But the glass was between us — hard, cold, and misted over with my breath. Now they have taken everything away. What am I doing in this place and who am I?
— Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea
Become as a child,
become deaf, become blind!
Your very something
must become nothing,
drive all something, all nothing away!
Leave place, leave time,
and images as well!
Go without way
on the narrow path,
thus you will come to the desert trace.
O my soul,
get out, god in!
all my something sink
into god’s nothing,
sink into the bottomless swell!
If I flee from you,
you come to me.
If I lose myself,
I find you,
O goodness beyond being!
– Master Eckhart, from Granum sinapis de divinitate pulcherrima (tr. W. Franke)