Ich, die ich nie Romane lese, auf der verzweifelten Suche nach einem Hausarbeitsthema für LITERATURWISSENSCHAFT.
Dabei bin ich auf diesen Text gestoßen, der mich an die Bemerkung eines Freundes erinnert hat, der Japan als Schlafkultur bezeichnete. Vielleicht wird es ja was damit… Ansonsten auch so eine interessante Erzählung, die einem seltsame Bezüge sowohl zu Kafka wie auch ETA Hoffmann und der ARD und all den anderen seltsamen deutschen Autoren aufdrängt.
translated by James Dorsey
“From the Desert of Exhaustion, I filled my sack with the sands of fatigue.”
Nobody knew the boy’s name. I’ll just call him K.
K had once traveled the world. One day he arrived at a most unusual place called Sleepyville. There was no activity to be seen there and not a sound to be heard. The buildings were all old and had fallen into disrepair. Not a wisp of smoke rose from a smokestack for there was not a single factory to be found.
The town simply spilled out over the plain. It was named Sleepyville for a reason: anyone who passed through it was overcome by an inexplicable fatigue and a desire for sleep. Travelers who chanced upon the town would begin to feel weary as they approached and, getting ever more drowsy, would sit themselves down in the shade of a tree at the edge of town or perhaps on a rock somewhere close to the center of town for a bit of a rest. Try though they might to recover their strength, they would feel themselves pulled deeper and deeper into the depths of drowsiness, and before they knew it they would be sound asleep. By the time they finally awakened, the sun would have begun to set. Alarmed, they would leap to their feet and hurry on their way.
The story started somewhere, and somebody passed it along, and before long it had made the rounds of travelers far and wide, so that all came to fear passing through the town. Some even took great pains to avoid it, circling far out of their way to give it a wide berth.
But K was different. He wanted to see for himself this Sleepyville that everybody feared, he wanted to pay a visit to this place so dreaded by all. And he made up his mind to be different from the rest—he would not fall asleep, he would stay awake no matter how drowsy he felt. And so, spurred on by curiosity, he plodded toward “Sleepyville.”
When he arrived, he found the town as odd and unsettling as people had described it. Without a sound to be heard, the town in daytime was as silent as it was at night. No smoke drifted skyward; indeed, there was nothing at all to catch one’s eye. Each and every house was shut up tightly. Everything was perfectly still, as if the town itself had died. K strolled along the crumbling yellow earthen walls and peeked through the cracks of the weathered doors. All was so still that he could not determine if anyone was actually living in the houses. A skinny mutt appeared out of nowhere, limping through the town square. K thought that the dog must have arrived in the company of a traveler, only to have lost track of him. Now the dog was wandering about aimlessly. As K explored the town he felt exhaustion creeping slowly into his bones.
“Aha! Here it is—the fatigue, the sleepiness. But I have to stay awake. I’ve got to resist the desire to sleep,” mumbled K to himself, urging himself forward.
Nevertheless, he could feel his senses begin to numb, as if he had been drugged. Soon the drowsiness that had come over him was impossible to resist; there was no way he could carry on. K collapsed against a nearby wall and within seconds was fast asleep, snoring loudly, and oblivious to everything around him.
It felt to K that just as he had fallen into a deep sleep someone was shaking him awake. Startled, he opened his eyes and jumped to his feet. The sun had already set and the blue light of the moon cast a cold glow over the area. “What time is it? How could I have let this happen? I was supposed to stay awake no matter how sleepy I felt,” thought K regretfully. There was, however, nothing to be done about it now.
K picked up his hat, which had fallen at his feet, and put it back on his head. He glanced about and discovered standing nearby an old man carrying a large sack over his shoulder. K thought it must have been this old man who had shaken him awake a moment ago. Boldly, he walked toward the old man. Examining his appearance more closely in the light of the moon, K saw that his clothing was ragged and his shoes were worn thin. With a long gray beard, he appeared to be very old indeed.
“And who might you be?” asked the boy, in as strong a voice as he could muster.
With this the old man tottered in K’s direction.
“I am the one who woke you! I have something to ask of you. Truth be told, I am the one who built Sleepyville. I am the one responsible for it. But, as you can surely see, I am now old, and thus I have a request to make. Will you hear what I have to say?”
Addressed in this manner K felt it his manly duty to listen to what the old man had to say. “Should it be within my power, I will do as you ask,” K vowed.
This filled the old man with joy.
“At last I can rest easy. I will now tell you my tale. I have long lived in this realm, yet others came from elsewhere and robbed me of my lands. They ran steam engines along the tracks they laid down, sailed steamships across my seas, and strung electric wires across my skies. Were this to continue, there would soon come a day when no tree or flower would be left on the face of the earth. Since long, long ago, I have loved these beautiful mountains, these forests, and these flowering fields, but if fatigue did not force humans to rest, the surface of this earth would be turned into a wasteland in the blink of an eye. And so, from the Desert of Exhaustion, I filled my sack with the Sands of Fatigue. I carry that sack on my back even now. Sprinkling even a few grains of it on anything will cause that thing to decay, rust, or tire. I will now share with you the sand in this sack and ask that as you wander the earth, you scatter it.” Such was the old man’s request of K.
Having accepted the old man’s mysterious request, the boy picked up the sack and began to walk the earth. One day, as he was walking through the Alps, he came across a landscape beautiful beyond words. It was swarming with hundreds of workers and laborers who were cutting down massive trees that had stood since ancient times, and dynamiting magnificent boulders, shattering them into pieces. In their wake a railroad was being built. The boy grabbed a handful of sand from his sack and scattered it on the railroad line that had just been so carefully laid, bringing the workers’ efforts to naught. The once gleaming tracks turned red with rust before his eyes.
There was also a time when K walked through a bustling city teeming with people. An automobile approached from the other direction, struck a shopkeeper’s young apprentice, and sent him flying, very nearly killing him. The driver attempted to hurry on without so much as a glance at the site of the accident, but K quickly snatched a handful of sand from his bag and threw it on the tires. The automobile screeched to a halt, allowing the crowd to easily apprehend the inconsiderate driver.
Yet another time K found himself passing by a building site where many tired workers labored and sweat. K felt sorry for them. He sprinkled just a few grains of sand on their foreman, who in just seconds began to feel drowsy.
“Let’s take a short break,” said the foreman. He pulled his cap down over his face to shade it from the sun and was soon soundly asleep.
K rode on trains and steamships, he visited ironworks. Wherever he went he sprinkled some of the sand until at last his supply ran out.
He remembered what the old man had told him: “When you have used up all your sand, return here to this sleepy town and I shall make you this country’s prince.” The boy thought it would be nice to see the old man again, and he began his journey back to Sleepyville.
Some days later he arrived in Sleepyville. The gray buildings that had stood there long ago had somehow vanished without a trace. And that was not all. In their place towered row after row of tall buildings, billowing smoke up into the skies. From the ironworks rose a clamorous din, and electric lines stretched like a spiderweb over the town while streetcars sped hither and yon.
The condition of the town so shocked the boy that he was left speechless. Eyes wide with surprise, he stared intently at the scene, watching, watching.