By Marina Benjamin Scribe, 144pp, £9.99
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. ■