Willem Frederik Hermans
A masterclass in the art of realist narrative
Beyond Sleep is the oppressive story, of young geologist Alfred Issendorf. Like all scientists, he dreams of fame and immortality. Along with a young geologist called Arne and two assistants, he sets off for the North Cape on a research trip, intending to prove that the region’s lakes were created by meteorites.
His ambition quickly overtakes his sense of reality, however, and the journey across the wide open landscape of Finnmark becomes increasingly hellish. Alfred can’t even keep up with the others. The midnight sun makes sleep impossible and mosquitoes torment him all day, flying into his mouth whenever he attempts to speak. The expedition ends in tragedy. First the two assistants leave, then Alfred becomes convinced they should take a different route and casually abandons Arne. When he realizes his mistake and returns, he finds Arne dead.
Beyond Sleep is an ingeniously structured novel in which Hermans uses bitter ridicule to dismantle all faith in progress.
His dark pessimism is not fatalistic, however, but rather a deeply personal and razor sharp analysis of human limitations.