And now the last dream of the night, the dream Chancelade has always had as far back as he can remember. It’s the strangest dream of all and the most desperate, because what happens in it is nothing. Perhaps it’s merely the face of truth, inexpressible, impossible to understand, the realest of all dreams. Here in a topsyturvy world there are no more years or days or minutes. When you wake up it will be 9.30 or noon or one o’clock in the morning. You’ll be called Chancelade or Tonibaldi or Brogger. You’ll be twelve years old or thirty-five or ninety-seven. It will be 1966 or 2640 or 722 B.C. Anything’s possible. And, tonight as every night, he’ll have this inspired and terrifying dream, this empty dream. Stretched out on the bed with his face in the pillow and his legs drawn up, Chancelade dreams that he is conscious. He is submerged in consciousness, consciousness without form, without colour, without sound, without words. He sees himself see himself, simply, indefinitely, as if he’d suddenly put his head into the prison of a three-sided mirror. However far into the distance he looks all he meets is his own gaze reflected through space and back again. Body and mind, all is strained to the limit, caught in the vertigo of consciousness. Paralysed, drained, annihilated. And yet in all this deserted kingdom of which it is the centre, his own gaze lives and feeds on itself. Nothing can be done to forget or to escape. There’s no word, like ‘Fire’ or ‘Ocean’, to get hold of. Not an image with which to get away, not a thought with which to distract oneself. There is nothing but this atrociously extended knowledge, this invisible eye ceaselessly photographing its own life and wiping out at the same moment as it creates, as if what it showed was too bright and pure to be anything but darkness. Then, after these centuries of infinity and fury, after these long years and endless seconds of consciousness silently spinning on its own axis, Chancelade wakes, turns over, and pushes the sheet down a bit because he’s bathed in sweat.
[Terra Amata, Le Clézio, J. M. G.]