Saturday, October 16, 2010

Petersburg: The senator's second space

Apollon Apollonovich had a strange secret of his own: a world of figures, contours, tremors, weird physical sensations—in short: a universe of oddities. This universe always arose on the brink of sleep, and it arose in such a way that, at the moment he dropped off to sleep, Apollon Apollonovich would remember all the incoherences of the past, the rustling sounds, the crystallographic figures, the golden, chrysanthemum-shaped stars that coursed through the darkness on their legs of light-rays (sometimes one of these stars would shower the senator’s head with boiling water: a tingling in his scalp): in short, before he fell asleep he remembered everything he had seen the previous day, only to lose it all from memory the following morning.

Sometimes (not always), just before the final moment of daytime consciousness, Apollon Apollonovich would notice, as he dropped to sleep, that all the threads, all the stars, as they formed a gurgling vortex, whirled together to create a corridor running off into infinity and (the strangest thing of all) he felt that the corridor—began in his head, that is to say that it, the corridor, was an endless continuation of his head itself, whose crown had suddenly burst open—a continuation into infinity; thus it was that the old senator received on the edge of sleep the most extraordinary impression that he was looking not with hiw eye, but with the centre of his head itself, in other words that he, Apollon Apollonvich, was not Apollon Apollonovich, but something that had settled in his brain and was now gazing out from there, from his brain; when the crown of his head opened this something could freely and easily run the length of the corridor to the place when everything is cast into the abyss that revealed itself that at the end of the corridor.

This was the senator’s second space--the land of the senator’s nightly travels; and that’s quite enough about it…

(page 184, Petersburg by Andrei Bely, Pushkin Press, 2009, translation by John Elsworth)

After Apollon has a disturbing “double dream” (dreaming that he awoke and explored his house):

Only there was something wrong with his back: a fear of touching his spine ... He wasn't developing tabes dorsalis, surely?

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