By Marguerite Yourcenar
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Additional info for Memoirs of Hadrian
What reassures us about sleep is that we do come out of it, and come out of it unchanged, since some mysterious ban keeps us from bringing back with us in their true form even the remnants of our dreams. What also reassures us is that sleep heals us of fatigue, but heals us by the most radical of means in arranging that we cease temporarily to exist. There, as elsewhere, the pleasure and the art consist in conscious surrender to that blissful unconsciousness, and in accepting to be slightly less strong, less light, less heavy and less definite than our waking selves.
I dozed off. The sandglass proved to me that I had slept barely an hour, but a brief moment of complete repose, at my age, is equal to sleep which formerly lasted throughout half a revolution of the stars; my time is measured from now on in much smaller units. An hour had sufficed to accomplish the humble and unexpected prodigy: the heat of my blood was rewarming my hands; my heart and my lungs had begun to function with a kind of good will, and life was welling up like a spring which, though not abundant, is faithful.
A more impersonal approach yields informations as cool and detached as the theories which I could develop on the science of numbers: I employ what intelligence I have to look from above and afar upon my life, which accordingly becomes the life of another. But these two procedures for gaining knowledge are difficult, and require, the one, a descent into oneself, the other, a departure from self. Out of inertia I tend, like everyone else, to substitute for such methods those of mere habit, thus conceiving of my life partly as the public sees it, with judgments ready-made, that is to say poorly made, like a set pattern to which an unskillful tailor laboriously fits the cloth which we bring him.