House of Day, House of Night

BY Olga Tokarczuk

The Dream The first night, I had an immobile dream. I dreamed that I was pure looking, pure vision, and that I had neither a body nor a name. I am suspended high above the valley at some undefined point from which I can see everything, or almost everything. I move by looking, but I stay in place. It is rather the visible world that responds to me when I look at it. It moves nearer and closer so that I can see everything at once or only the most particular details. So I can see the valley with a house standing in it, in the very middle of it, but it is not my house or my valley. Nothing belongs to me. I do not even belong to myself, and nothing like me even exists. I can see the circular line of the horizon that surrounds the valley on all sides. I can see an agitated, turgid brook flowing between the hills. I can see trees grown into the earth with powerful legs, like one-legged, motionless animals. This immobility that I am seeing is apparent. If I only want to, I can penetrate beyond appearances. Then I see moving streams of water and sap beneath the bark of the tree, circulating and recirculating, up and down. Under the roof of the house, I can see the bodies of sleeping people. Their motionlessness, too, is apparent – hearts are beating delicately inside them, and the blood is flowing. Not even their dreams are real, because this is something else that I can see: what those dreams are – pulsating fragments of images. None of these sleeping bodies is any closer to me or farther from me than any other. I am simply looking at them, and in their baffling sleeping thoughts, I see my self. That is when I discover a strange truth. Looking, without reflection, without any judgements, without feeling, is what I am. And I immediately discover something else: I can also look through time, as if I were a cursor on a computer screen that moves by itself, or that simply does not know anything about the existence of the hand that makes it move. I dream this way, it seems, for an infinitely long time. There is no before or after, nor do I expect anything new, for there is nothing that I can acquire or lose. The night will never end. Nothing happens. Not even time changes what I see. I look without seeing anything new, or forgetting anything that I have seen.

translated by William Brand

The excerpt from House of Day, House of Night was originally published on the Book Institute's website.