Posts by Kurt Beals

Translation Tuesday: “The Mouse” by Regina Ullmann

An excerpt from The Country Road, translated by Kurt Beals

Death was prepared in the form of a trap. But before its time finally came, the mouse would have to gnaw through the wall that led into my bed-chamber. It would have to gnaw through a long and narrow passage, and gnaw through my sleep.

Sometimes I pounded on the bed with my fist, frightening myself with the way that its thunder rolled over everything imaginable in the night. And I thought I could sense that the mouse felt this fear, too. But before this wave of fright could roll gently into peace, that same quiet gnawing could be heard again from afar. It was so quiet that it was audible only to someone alone and left to himself in a house by a moonlit field on the edge of a forest. He guards himself like his own hunting dog, and even when he is asleep he will hear any approaching danger. He is like fog, when it is dark, the fog that seems to live in its own light. He is like the rain, far and wide, high and distant, in the heavens and on earth. How could he fail to notice the gnawing of a mouse, when that activity returns again to itself. He feels it in his blood. So once again I lit my candle, the bane of all four-footed intruders. But the candle didn’t spread its angel wings as it had in other nights, arching them over the dark abyss of fear, becoming a spirit of the shadows, the better to offer its light . . . Instead it suddenly betrayed me to my enemy, becoming a sort of gnawing creature itself, there in its candlestick. It ate away at my sleep, and the mouse did not fear it.