Published in English in 1989 as "Sleep" (Portuguese Edition published 2013).
Sometimes the idea of wasting time by being asleep goes through my mind. That I could or should be producing something useful (like reading or making stuff); because sleep would be something useless. Reading, watching, writing or doing any other activity at dawn. In some sleepless nights during college, I did it and it seemed to have the power to prolong my life. I sort of thought aloud: "Hey, life is passing, the hands of the clock are cruel: Do not sleep! Or, sleep less and enjoy more."
I believed that this was the thinking of a very few. Reading this Murakami, I once again identified myself with some ideas of the main character. I tried an experiment. I read the first page during the day, and I then stopped and decided to read it again after midnight, thus trying to reproduce the unnamed character’s environment. I felt a mixture of anxiety and peace in the quiet of the morning. In each author's description regarding the activities and night life of the woman who did not sleep for 17 days, the same scene materialized in front of me and I saw her in the living room, holding Anna Karenina and a glass of Remy Martin. Like going out at dawn and feeling the sense of danger and deliverance narrated in the Murakami’s story.
The description of the nightmare, which occurred before the continuous wakefulness, is a striking moment: "Fiquei ali imobilizada, a ouvir a minha própria respiração no seu rumor cavernoso, terrivelmente desagradável, como se eu ocupasse todo o espaço de uma enorme caverna.” (I stood still, listening to my own labored breathing, as if I were stretched out full length on the floor of a huge cavern). The SFional manifested itself in the figure of a black figure in front of her: "Pareceu-me distinguir vagamente no escuro qualquer coisa aos meus pés, uma sombra negra.” (Just then I seemed to catch a glimpse of something at the foot of the bed, something like a vague, black shadow).
The adjectival death from lack of sleep of the (un)happy woman: "Fechei os olhos e experimentei recordar-me de como era ter sono, mas, dentro de mim, existia apenas uma treva vigilante. Uma treva vigilante: isso fazia-me pensar na morte.”(I closed my eyes and tried to recall the sensation of sleeping, but all that existed for me inside was a watchful darkness. A watchful darkness: what it called to mind was death.)
“Se a morte não significasse uma condição de repouso para os comuns mortais, como nós, que sinal de redenção poderíamos esperar nesta vida imperfeita e carregada de tormentos?” (If the state of death was not to be a rest for us, then what was going to redeem this imperfect life of ours, so fraught with exhaustion?). This excerpt sent me to people in a vegetative state or in a coma and to a passage in the Gospel of Matthew, 27: 52-52 (taken from my New King James Bible): "and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many."
Dying is associated with sleep in two other literary works. William Shakespeare, Hamlet in Act III, scene 1, recites the famous monologue:
"To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause."
Also in chapter XIX of "The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas" by Machado de Assis it’s said: "Fiquei só; mas a musa do capitão varrera-me do espírito os pensamentos maus: preferi dormir, que é um modo interino de morrer“(I was left alone, but the captain's muse had swept away all evil thoughts from my spirit. I preferred going to sleep, which is an interim way of dying.)
What about her final? It depends on interpretation and imagination of each reader. I know what I thought, but I won’t “verbalize” it here”…
Reading Murakami always puts my cognitive fitness to the test. Murakami’s style depends largely on the ability/ sensitivity of the reader to capture or see any meaning in the story.
NB: Fabulous images by Kat Menschik, whose uncomfortable drawings are more than an apt follow-up to the words of Murakami, as an extra addition to chilling sense of foreboding.