An Image of Death

I’ve always disliked that threshold between waking and sleep, when the “I” and the self separate. A flash of recognition from the following paragraph, which opens Aurélia (and is its high point).

Our dreams are a second life. I have never been able to penetrate without a shudder those ivory or horned gates which separate us from the invisible world. The first moments of sleep are an image of death; a hazy torpor grips our thoughts and it becomes impossible for us to determine the exact instant when the “I,” under another for, continues the task of existence. Little by little a vague underground cavern grows lighter and the pale gravely immobile shapes that live in limbo detach themselves from the shadows and the night. Then the picture takes form, a new brightness illumines these strange apparitions and gives them movement. The spirit world opens before us.

Gérard De Nerval, Aurélia and Other Writings.
trans. Geoffrey Wagner. Exact Change, 1996 (1855)

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