Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The creaking of the deathwatch beetle

Eveline's insomnia proved to be of long duration.

If you are sleepless in the big city you may gain some consolation from street noises that tell you there are others who find no relief in the night. But in the village the midnight hours can drive you to distraction, their slow passage as sluggish as the creaking of the deathwatch beetle. You may well imagine yourself a portrait of an antique ancestor hanging on the wall, whose wide-open eyes must contemplate one generation after another. The years whiz by with the wind and the rain, the rumbling storms, the migrating birds, the unctuous words of the priest and the mourners' bent heads by the open grave, stallions collapsing in a heap and fine old watchdogs laid low to rest, serving maids who were once young and fair, and tumbledown fences, desolate wishing wells and overgrown gardens... One after another, the years whoosh by. Only the insomniac looks on with open eyes, like a cadaver who forgot to die. A fine dust descends from the moldering ceiling to cover everything: bright faces and haymaking hips, merry neighbors, springtime smiles, flashing white teeth. Transience squats by the foot of the bed like a moribund, faithful old servitor. And the hand reaches less often for the thirst-quenching goblet.

At last the roosters began to crow.

— from Sunflower, by Gyula Krúdy.

I will be posting about Sunflower on May 22 as part of the Spotlight Series tour for New York Review Books Classics — a whole week featuring reviews of those sexy NYRB books!

1 comment:

Sara said...

Wowza. That passage is remarkable. Except I can't really remark on it except to say . . . Wowza. I will await the full post eagerly.