In­som­nia

By Ma­rina Ben­jamin Scribe, 144pp, £9.99

The Scotsman - - Arts - Dan Brotzel

In this slight mem­oir, writ­ten as a series of con­nected notes, Ma­rina Ben­jamin med­i­tates with great per­sonal thought and feel­ing on the con­di­tion of un­wanted wake­ful­ness that has long been her lot. But this is no self-help guide or even a med­i­cal primer on the sub­ject. As well as a per­sonal ac­count, it is also an idio­syn­cratic cul­tural his­tory of sleep­less­ness, a po­etic med­i­ta­tion on what we lose and what we gain from these un­willed en­coun­ters with brute night. The frag­mented struc­ture fits well with the sub­ject, and Ben­jamin is ex­cel­lent at de­scrib­ing the jagged loops and whirrs of a mind fail­ing to find rest.

To the sin­gle-is­sue writer, every topic is a nail to ham­mer, and Ben­jamin’s ex­plo­ration ranges from Greek mythol­ogy to the Nazi ter­ror, from Chilean nov­el­ist Roberto Bolano to Sleep­ing Beauty.

If some of these con­nec­tions feel a lit­tle forced, they are never less than in­ter­est­ing. But I like the book best when it is scor­ing the dis­cor­dant melodies of noc­tur­nal thought, or evok­ing with foren­sic vivid­ness the many dif­fer­ent shades of dark­ness. ■

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