Marcel Gähler

Peter Stamm

The head wakes up first. The body still resists. Getting up when it's dark outside. (A childhood memory. School starts at ten past seven and the winter is endless. Not wanting to go to sleep so as not to have to wake up in the dark. The brutality of waking up, the futile attempts to escape back into sleep.) The draining, debilitating tiredness of morning, the feeling of sinking. Sitting down, unwashed, at one's desk. Writing as a means of waking up. Finding a form in the amorphous night. Only form can rescue us from content.
The fire has long died out in the fireplace. Sour smoke hangs suspended in the rooms of the house. Switching on all the lights and lighting up the first cigarette, which is tasteless and scratches one's throat. The surprising cold that envelops the house, that envelops me. The body has cooled off overnight. There are no warm clothes, the clothes simply hamper the exchange of heat. The world seems flatter than usual. The night is not a space, it is a plane, a picture. Time seems to stand still, like a photograph, when a hundredth of a second turns into eternity. It comes as a great surprise when something has changed overnight, when it has snowed, when animals have left traces in the snow, inexplicable paths. Anything can attract attention now, a surface, the cone of light cast by a streetlamp, the sound of a car passing by. The noise of the ventilation seems incredibly loud and important. Nothing has a beginning or an end.
The pictures of memory, the pictures of dreams are like pictures in the night, bright in the middle and blurred at the edges. Their contours fade into the darkness. A small section carved out of an infinite plane by the light of a torch. The constricted view.
The alarming thought that light is something and darkness nothing. (When the batteries get weaker, the bulb barely glows and you have to hold the torch close up in order to see anything at all; when the bulb finally goes out like a spent sun.) The thought that darkness is the normal case, nothingness. "Rage," Dylan Thomas wrote, "rage against the dying of the light." Futile rage.
I have to think of the birds in London that already start singing in the middle of the night. And that strange news clip about the birds with the biggest eyes being the first to start singing in the morning. After the third or fourth cup of coffee, the day begins to dawn. On the way to the railroad station I encounter people with frightened faces, feverishly red cheeks, their eyes open wide. They come out of their own nocturnal solitude and are still coming to grips. They will reconquer the world, like every morning.

Peter Stamm
Translation: Catherine Schelbert
February 5, 2004

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