Little by little the movement of the train made me relaxed. My attention grew dim, and very quickly my imagination whispered to it things that seemed to it to be perfectly coherent, but which, had I been awoken by a stop, would seem to me to make no sense, or rather to have no existence. Upon waking I would tell myself that I thought that I had continued to imagine things in my sleep but that I was mistaken. And yet I still imagined things and with dizzying speed even, but things which in the daylight of full consciousness are also as invisible as the stars during the day, and yet they are still there. Stretched out in the railway carriage I let myself be lulled by the noise of the train, which moreover I put into my own rhythm, according to which bangs my ear selected as "forte". Because as it is with the noise of the train so it is with the sound of bells. Our ear combines these sounds one with the other as it pleases, so successfully that as soon as one begins slightly early, the other seems to rush to join with it. From which comes a little rather humble rhythmic arrangement with an attendant percussion that always comes back to unsettle us at the same moment. Little by little my attention drops, I become relaxed. Certainly the interior dialogues that my imagination furnishes me do not stop. On the contrary I talk to myself more and more quickly, only from deeper and deeper, so it seems. And this whole chain of thought seemed to me perfectly satisfactory as long as I drowsed. But if in order to take account of what in effect was a half-waking dream I wanted to wake up completely, no less, the last snatches of somnolent reverie that I could stop in their tracks at the moment they emerged from the dream into the daylight appeared to me to be completely meaningless. And everything I told myself seemed to me to be perfectly satisfactory. Every word idea summoned another to it and the whole thing followed on perfectly. To tell the truth as my memory and reason slept I was unable to ask them now which of them was a little fleeting nonsense and which was perfectly coherent. They knew nothing about it. But to my twilit attention in that moment it all seemed very agreeable, wholly connected and constant. And it was very comfortable in this moment when my limbs were numb, as I drowsed, this low voice murmuring in the imagination that did not want to prevent me from sleeping, immediately adapting to my new situation and that felt that to get the slightest bit of my attention it needed only the same idle nonsense that it moreover understood perfectly. But deep down this story that it tells me, softly as if to a small child, what is it, I want to know, I wake up completely. But also my interior chattering stops outright. And of what it told me, told me, told me, so quickly, while the train created an accompaniment upon which my ear had fixed the rhythm once and for all, and as my shoulder jolted by the movement numbed itself against the corner of the train seat, it was impossible to recover the slightest scrap. And this time I am like a poor musician who has lost a bar in the monotonous and dull piece that the train is executing. And making up for my forte tempo, it is another that I elide. And whereas this one returned to hammer in my ear at the anticipated moment, the dominant noise from just now, come back into range as though by the negligence and caprice of my ear, does no more than prepare it and follow its successor, dully, rushing into its tracks or accompanying it with a limp. And little by little the attention that would have been so useful to me to make sense of the recitals of my imagination while I drowsed, dropped. I began to doze again and immediately my drowsy imagination, which was waiting only for this moment, as if it did not want to be observed and as if this recital that it was giving was secret and must not be heard either by my attention or my reason, set off again and began to speak to me very quietly, very quickly. I do not know what it was telling me as such but I know that at that particular moment it interested me very much, that the ease with which I understood it made it happen more quickly like the admiration of someone who listens excitedly to an animated speaker, I urged it on quicker and quicker while my legs stretched out over the opposite seat and the impetuous music and changing measure of the train continued to sooth me. This time I wanted to know exactly what it was telling me. And informed by the disappointment of just now, knowing that the moment I awake I would remember nothing, at the moment I felt myself entering the broad daylight of wakefulness, I put on the brakes and I immobilize in my memory the troubled dream that is still whispering and is going to stop. But the last few words put together like that are absurd, make no sense and it was really the sleep that was making me think I was following a coherent narrative. But no, I was asleep again. And this time I attempted to wake up progressively, to gently blend into my dawning awareness of somnolence, the first weak light of awakened attention so as not to startle my old nocturnal story teller, and to stop in their tracks all its comments as do those who go into the country to gather from the mouth of a grand parent a precious tradition that is about to be lost. But I could not be both awake and asleep at the same time, as soon as I bring my attention to the light of day the narrative disappears. But if I could understand nothing of it at least I had the feeling that it really was by no means an incoherent narrative. And then I have the feeling that I have been mistaken by believing upon waking to have only had totally incoherent thoughts, I was unable to see in the same continuous light of awakening, that which does not see the light, but I felt a whole continuation that stopped, a whole series not perceptible to the waking mind, but still perceptible to that which remains asleep to the mind that awakens and that this narrative was the rational from the drowsing reason, which needs it in order to take place and be understood. They cannot be separated, in the place of sleeping reason put waking reason, and there is no longer any sleeping imagination, presumably there never was. It must be that they be both, that they fit together and in the half-light of this new humming concavity quick, quick, low, low, the incomprehensible narrative. Then when the train sends me to sleep again, when my twilit attention keeps lone watch then my sleeping attention carries it away.
If you want let us compose a dream.
And the chattering starts up more and more rapidly, more and more tenuous, more and more imperceptible to the consciousness. And seeing that if I awake there is nothing there any more I ask myself whether this chattering is not going on other than through an ear sensitive enough to perceive it in the tumult of sensations and the crowd of thoughts that begin again in the reawakened consciousness, as in broad daylight the stars are still there in the sky but are not visible to our eye that is flooded with light. Whereas in the darkness of the slumbering consciousness, in the silence that is created by the numbness of all the faculties of understanding, we turn an ear to this music which had not put an end to itself but must be the calm of the closed consciousness, whereas we doze, back supported by the corner of the train door, to listen, our twilit consciousness bent over it like over a shellfish our ear, our ear voluptuously squashed in that moment against the hard and shifting upholstery of the train is struck dully by the forte and intermittent tempo of the dull cadence of the train.
An unused sketch
written c 7/8 September 1901. In some way this prefigures the
description of the narrator's train journey on his first visit to
Balbec in A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs, Noms de
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