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Your own snakes

The Winter Book came, from the U.K. via a special order to Powell’s. For a little while I tried to ignore it and do what I was supposed to be doing. Then I dove in.

I will restrain myself from typing in all my favorite parts because I suspect it would turn into a full transcription, but here are three paragraphs from “The Dark”:

At the waxworks you can see how easy it is to smash people to pieces. They can be crushed, torn in half or sawn into little bits. Nobody is safe and therefore it is terribly important to find a hiding place in time.

I used to sing sad songs to Poyu. He put his hands over his ears but he listened all the same. Life is an isle of sorrow, you live today and die tomorrow! The skating rink was the isle of sorrow. We drew it underneath the dining-room table. With a ruler Poyu drew every plank in the fence and the lamps all at the same distance from one another, and his pencil was always too hard. I only drew black and with a 4B — the darkness on the ice, or the channel in the ice or a thousand murky figures on squeaking skates flying round in a circle. He didn’t understand what I was drawing, so I took a red pencil and whispered: “Marks of blood! Blood all over the ice!” And Poyu screamed while I captured this cruel thing on paper so that it couldn’t get at me.

One Sunday I taught Poyu how to escape from the snakes in their big carpet. All you have to do is walk along the light-colored edges, on all the colours that are light. If you step on the dark colours next to them, you are lost. There are such swarms of snakes there you just can’t describe them, you have to imagine them. Everyone must imagine his own snakes because no one else’s snakes can ever be as awful.

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