C H O R E O G R A P H I C _ P R O D U C T I O N
e s t o n i a _ f r a n c e _ g e r m a n y _ p o r t u g a l _ r o m a n i a _ s e r b i a _ t u r k e y

The LOOPING project ends in fall 2010. We are off to new adventures !

April 30, 2010

Haruki Murakami "Sleep" (exerpts)

This is my seventeenth straight day without sleep.
I'm not talking about insomnia. I know what insomnia is. I had something like it in college - “something like it” because I'm not sure that what I had then was exactly what people refer to as insomnia. I suppose a doctor could have told me. But I didn't see a doctor. I knew it wouldn't do any good. Not that I had any reason to think so. Call it woman's intuition – I just felt they couldn't help me. So I didn't see a doctor, and I didn't say anything to my parents or friends, because I knew that that was exactly what they would tell me to do.
Back then my “something like insomnia” went on for a month. I never got any sleep that entire time.
In any case, what I have now is nothing like that insomnia, nothing at all. I just can't sleep. Not for one second. Aside from that simple fact, I'm perfectly normal. I don't feel sleepy, and my mind is as clear as ever. Clearer, if anything. Physically, too, I'm normal: My appetite is fine; I'm not fatigued. In terms of everyday reality, there's nothing wrong with me. I just can't sleep.
After my husband goes back to the office, I take a bathing suit and a towel and drive to the neighbourhood athletic club. I swim for half an hour. I swim hard. I'm not that crazy about the swimming itself: I just want to keep the flab off. I've always liked my own figure. Actually, I've never liked my face. It's not bad, but I never really liked it. My body is another matter. I like to stand naked in front of the mirror. I like to study the soft outlines I see there, the balanced vitality. I'm not sure what it is, but I get the feeling that something inside there is very important to me. Whatever it is, I don't want to lose it.
I'd sometimes wonder what kind of life this was. Which is not to say that I found it empty. I was – very simply amazed. At the lack of demarcation between the days. At the fact that I was part of such a life, a life that had swallowed me up so completely. At the fact that my footprints were being blown away before I even had a chance to turn and look at them.
Whenever I felt like that, I would look at my face in the bathroom mirror – just look at it for fifteen minutes at the time, my mind a total blank. I'd stare at my face purely as a physical object, and gradually it would disconnect from the rest of me, becoming just some thing that happened to exist at the same time as myself. And a realization would come to me: This is happening here and now. It's got nothing to do with footprints. Reality and I exist simultaneously at this present moment. That's the most important thing.
But now I can't sleep anymore. When I stopped sleeping, I stopped keeping a diary.
I went through the motions – shopping, cooking, playing with my son, having sex with my husband. It was easy once I got hang of it. All I had to do was break the connection between my mind and body. While my body went about its business, my mind floated in its own inner space.
After I gave up sleeping, it occurred to me what a simple thing reality is, how easy it is to make it work. It's just reality. Just housework. Just a home. Like running a simple machine.
One afternoon, I went to the library and read some books on sleep. The few books I could find didn't tell me much. …
One book did have a fascinating point to make. The author maintained that human beings, by their very nature, are incapable of escaping from certain idiosyncratic tendencies, both in their thought processes and in their physical movements. … In other words, people live in the prison cells of their own tendencies. What modulates these tendencies and keeps them in check – so the organism doesn't wear down as the heel of a shoe does, at a particular angle, as the author puts it – is nothing other than sleep. Sleep therapeutically counteracts the tendencies. In sleep people naturally relax the muscles that have been consistently used in only one direction; sleep both calms and provides a discharge for thought circuits that have likewise been used in only one direction. This is how people are cooled down. Sleeping is an act that has been programmed, with karmic inevitability, into the human system, and no one can diverge from it. If a person were to diverge from it, the person's very “ground of being” would be threatened.
“Tendencies?” I asked myself.
The only “tendency” of mine that I could think of was housework …
Sitting at the library table, I shook my head.
I'm through with sleep! So what if I go mad? So what if I lose my “ground of being”? I will not be consumed by my “tendencies”. If sleep is nothing more than a periodic repairing of the parts of me that are being worn away, I don't want it anymore. I don't need it anymore. My flesh may have to be consumed, but my mind belongs to me. I'm keeping it for myself. I will not hand it over to anyone. I don't want to be “repaired”. I will not sleep.
I left the library filled with new determination.
I wondered how many days it had been since I stopped sleeping. The sleeplessness started the Tuesday before last. Which made this the seventeenth day. Not one wink of sleep in seventeen days. Seventeen days and seventeen nights. A long, long time. I couldn't even recall what sleep was like.
I closed my eyes and tried to recall the sensation of sleeping, but all that existed for me inside was a wakeful darkness. A wakeful darkness: What it called to mind was death.
Was I about to die?
This is biologically unnatural. I suppose, but who really knows what is natural? They just infer it inductively. I'm beyond that. A priori. An evolutionary leap. A woman who never sleeps. An expansion of consciousness.
I have to smile. A priori. An evolutionary leap.

Haruki Murakami, p. 73-110, in "The Elephant Vanishes", Vintage 2003