From “Correction”, Thomas Bernhard (trans. Sarah Wilkins)

What a terrible situation I’ve let myself in for by accepting Hoeller’s invitation and moving into Hoeller’s garret, I thought. I looked down at Hoeller’s workshop windows and I thought, there he is working away on and on because he can’t sleep, and then I thought that he must be thinking that I can’t sleep either, which is why I keep pacing the floor of the garret. People are always having to face things that upset and disturb them, mostly it’s at the very moment when they suppose themselves to be at peace, that they’re catapulted into turmoil, when they feel well balanced, they’re thrown out of balance. All we ever have is an illusion of peace, because at the very moment at which peace could enter into us, could could could, I say, we’re right back in the worst turmoil. So Hoeller down there in his workshop, his preservatory, may well be thinking that I’m in the greatest turmoil up here in the garret, because all the indications down in the workshop must be pointing that way, just as I was bound to think of Hoeller down there in his workshop, because up here in the garret all the indications pointed to it. Of course, I could leave the attic and go down and walk into the workshop and ask Hoeller why he was still working at an hour when nobody was up and at work, any longer I could probe into the reasons for his present condition, his work obsession, and I could in turn let Hoeller probe into my reasons for pacing the floor of the garret, marching up and down and back and forth as I was doing instead of going to bed. But I controlled myself and sat down on the old chair beside the door and stared at the floor. One lamp is enough, I thought, and I got up and turned off the ceiling light, with only the desk lamp on, I thought, the garret won’t be so brightly lit, and that may help calm me down, I tried everything I could think of to calm myself down, but because I was so intent, working so hard without a letup at considering what to do in order to be able to sleep, to be able to go to bed in hopes of getting asleep, I was undermining my own effort to relax, on the contrary, these efforts of mine kept driving me deeper into sleeplessness. Still there’s nothing so extraordinary for me, I thought, in not being able to sleep, I’ve had to struggle with insomnia all my life, let’s face it, from the beginning of a certain stage of mental development, a certain age, that is, I never again had a real, satisfying, deep sleep in the natural way, in a fully relaxed state of my brain and my body. From a certain point in time onward, probably from the beginning of my present state of mind which has now been going on for two decades and which I call, as Roithamer did, my English state of mind, I haven’t even been able to imagine myself in a fully relaxed sleep, I see it as a privilege reserved for others, I said to myself, for a quite different breed of men, quite a different sort. Some people are so constituted that they can sleep well all their lives, or during the best part of their lives, or at least a tolerably good part of their lives, I thought, while some others, those like me, can’t sleep, they never sleep, they are condemned never to be able to sleep, for even when they are sleeping they are never really relaxed by nature and what they do can’t be called sleeping, these people never sleep as long as they live because all their lives, no matter how long they live, they have never had the advantage of a perfect relaxation of their head and their body. This entire valley is now at this hour filled with people who’re asleep, probably even deeply asleep, in all these houses and huts they are sleeping, and there isn’t’ a light anywhere, but here in Hoeller’s house there is lots of light and they’re not asleep, I’m sure that even the kids aren’t sleeping now, I thought, even Hoeller’s wife isn’t sleeping, because they’re all disturbed by the light from Hoeller’s workshop and fro Hoeller’s garret. They’ve gotten used to the roaring of the Aurach, I thought, but not to the light from the workshop and from Hoeller’s garret. In this unusually disturbing condition they quite naturally can’t sleep, I thought. And for how many more nights will they be unable to sleep, because this unusual situation connected with Roithamer’s death will certainly continue for a time, I thought, Hoeller is likely to be in his workshop and no in bed for days to come and I , unless I’ve picked myself up and gone off altogether, and as I thought this, everything in me was against getting out and away, suddenly I was all for staying put again, I too would be unable to sleep in the nights ahead and I’d be leaving the lights on in Hoeller’s garret, after all I really couldn’t stand it in the pitch-dark in Hoeller’s garret, I thought. And I doubted that Roithamer had ever succeeded in falling asleep in Hoeller’s garret, because Roithamer was another one of those who can never sleep, who can’t even relax by any means whatever, a man condemned to lifelong sleeplessness despite all those much-discussed and propagated relaxation gospels of our time. Even as a child Roithamer, as he often told me, couldn’t sleep, he fell asleep in the evening and work up in the morning but to call it sleep, whatever it was between his nodding off and waking up, would be a lie. People made like Roithamer (and me) really always defenceless characters, beings whatever, had no sleep capability, they may fall asleep and wake up again but they never sleep. They’ve got something forever in their heads and their nerves that won’t let them sleep. All their lives they keep looking for a cure for this unbearable condition and they never find one because there is no cure for this disease, which really is nothing but a mental disease. All those insomniacs are born with this mental disease, they already have this mental disease in childhood and whether they are of the Roithamer type or the Hoeller type, they are incurable. The nights, Roithamer said, are always the worst. Everything is blown up out of all proportion at night, no matter how insignificant , the most harmless things there is grows monstrous at night, and won’t let a man like me or Roithamer or Hoeller sleep. And this persistent thought that one can’t sleep, under any circumstances, makes it worse.

One thought

  1. Reblogged this on amedicaleducation and commented:

    A very typical example of Bernhard’s style, which I find compulsive. I have a feeling Bernhard would have despised me saying this, but I have found his dyspeptic, nihilistic works … quite life-affirming. Go figure. I also found “Correction” an excellent book to read before bed, because (I think) it forces a kind of focused attention. Someday I may try to empirically study this phenomenon….


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