Category Archives: Sleep

A hazy torpor overcomes our thoughts

The first moments of sleep are the image of death: a hazy torpor overcomes our thoughts, and it is impossible for us to determine the precise instant when the I, in another form, resumes the creative work of existence. Little by little an obscure underground cavern grows lighter, and the pale, solemnly immobile figures that inhabit the realm of limbo emerge from shadows and darkness. Then the picture takes form, a new light illumines and sets in motion these old apparitions: –the world of Spirits opens before us.

— Nerval,  (via here)

 

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From the well of absolute night

Her eyes were already open. Dawn was breaking. The rock she leaned against hurt her back. She sighed, and shifted her position a bit. Among the rocks out there beyond the town it was very quiet at this time of the day. She looked into the sky, saw space growing ever clearer. The first slight sounds moving through that space seemed no more than variations on the basic silence of which they were made. The nearby rock forms and the more distant city walls came up slowly from the realm of the invisible, but still only as emanations of the shadowy depths beneath. The pure sky, the bushes beside her, the pebbles at her feet, all had been drawn up from the well of absolute night. And in the same fashion the strange languor in the center of her consciousness, those vaporous ideas which kept appearing as though independently of her will, were mere tentative fragments of her own presence, looming against the nothingness of a sleep not yet cold—a sleep still powerful enough to return and take her in its arms. But she remained awake, the nascent light invading her eyes, and still no corresponding aliveness awoke within her; she had no feeling of being anywhere, of being anyone.

— Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

Good morning blues

Good morning blues, blues how do you do?
Good morning blues, blues how do you do?
I’m doing all right, good morning how are you?

I lay down last night, turning from side to side
Oh, turning from side to side
I was not sick, but I was dissatisfied.

I got up this morning with the blues walking round my bed
Oh, with the blues walking round my bed
I went to eat my breakfast, the blues was in my bread.

Leadbelly

The open window

‘What is it? What is it?’ I exclaimed, still held down in bed by sleep, and stretched my arms upwards. Then I got up, still far from being conscious of the present, and with the feeling that I must thrust aside various people who were in my way, made the necessary gestures, and so at last reached the open window.

— Kafka, The Blue Octavo Notebooks (tr. E. Kaiser and E. Wilkins)

Take it back!

Nothing intimidates me when I write. I say what I think must be said. [But] when I don’t write, there is a very strange moment when I go to sleep. When I have a nap and I fall asleep. At that moment, in a sort of half-sleep, all of a sudden I’m terrified by what I’m doing. And I tell myself: ‘You’re crazy to write this!’ […] And there is a sort of panic in my subconscious, as if… what can I compare it to? Imagine a child who does something horrible. […] In this half-sleep I have the impression that I’ve done something criminal, disgraceful, unavowable that I shouldn’t have done. And someone is telling me: ‘You’re mad to have done that!” And this is something I truly believe in my half-sleep. And the implied command in this is: ‘Stop everything! Take it back! Burn your papers! What you are doing is inadmissible!’ But once I wake up, it’s over. What this means or how I interpret this is that when I’m awake, conscious, working, in a certain way I’m more unconscious than in my half-sleep. When I’m in that half-sleep there’s a kind of vigilance that tells me the truth. First of all it tells me that what I’m doing is very serious. But when I’m awake and working, this vigilance is actually asleep. It’s not the stronger of the two. And so I do what must be done.

Derrida

Sleep

In a strange room you must empty yourself for sleep. And before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are emptied for sleep, you are not. And when you are filled with sleep, you never were.

— Faulkner (via here)

The only poem

This is the only poem
I can read
I am the only one
can write it
I didn’t kill myself
when things went wrong
I didn’t turn
to drugs or teaching
I tried to sleep
but when I couldn’t sleep
I learned to write
I learned to write
what might be read
on nights like this
by one like me

– Leonard Cohen

If only I could destroy the pages I have written

Tired, you are sure to be tired, my Felice, when you pick up this letter, and I must make an effort to write clearly to spare your sleepy eyes. Wouldn’t you rather leave the letter unread for the moment, lie back, and go on sleeping for a few more hours after this week of noise and rush? The letter won’t fly away, but will be quite happy to wait on your bedcover until you wake up.

I can’t tell you exactly what time it is while I am writing this letter, because my watch is on a chair not far away and I don’t dare get up and look; it must be nearly morning. But I didn’t get to my desk until after midnight. In the spring and summer – I don’t yet know from experience, for my nightly vigils are of recent date – one will not be able to stay awake undisturbed through three hours, for dawn will come on and drive one to bed, but now in these long, unchanging nights the world forgets about one, even if one doesn’t forget about it.

My work moreover has been so bad that I don’t deserve any sleep, and should be condemned to spend the rest of the night looking out of the window. Can you understand this, dearest: to write badly, yet feel compelled to write, or abandon oneself to total despair! To have to atone for the joys of good writing in this terrible way! In fact, not to be really unhappy, not to be pierced by a fresh stab of unhappiness, but to see the pages being covered endlessly with things one hates, that fill one with loathing, or at any rate with dull indifference, that nevertheless have to be written down in order that one shall live. Disgusting! If only I could destroy the pages I have written in the last four days, as though they had never been.

But what sort of good-morning is this? Is this the way to welcome one’s beloved on a beautiful Sunday morning? Well, one welcomes her the way one can, you wouldn’t want it otherwise. If sleep has not been completely driven out by my complaints and you can find some more, then I’m satisfied. And, as my farewell, I add that everything is definitely, quite definitely going to be better, and you need not worry. Surely I can’t be utterly thrown out of my writing after having thought more than once that I was sitting in its centre, settled in its comforting warmth.

– Kafka, letter to Felice (tr. J. Stern and E. Duckworth)

The only poem

This is the only poem
I can read
I am the only one
can write it
I didn’t kill myself
when things went wrong
I didn’t turn
to drugs or teaching
I tried to sleep
but when I couldn’t sleep
I learned to write
I learned to write
what might be read
on nights like this
by one like me

— Leonard Cohen

Sleep

You can tell a lot about a person from how they sleep: how hard or easy it is for them, where they can sleep, what they look like when they sleep, how they wake up. I never told you the thoughts I had when, after we’d made love, unable to sleep as I knew I would be in that unfamiliar room, with this still unfamiliar woman beside me, I looked at you sleeping so prettily, your mouth slightly open, your face trusting sleep.