Dark Terrain


She could feel that each year took something away from her and added something to her and that she was slowly changing with them; yet none of them stood out distinct from the others. Her sense of self was now vague and fluid, and when she probed her own being all she could discover was the shifting of veiled, indefinite forms, as if she were touching something that stirred under a blanket, without being able to identify it. Gradually it became more and more as though she were living under a woolen blanket herself, or under a bell-shaped cover made of thin horn which was becoming more and more opaque.

That’s from Musil’s story “The Temptation of Quiet Veronica,” another lush, intricate and very secretive story that I’m working on unraveling. Both this story and “The Perfecting of a Love” are so entirely internal that I find myself sinking into the rhythmic tick-tock of someone else’s mind and thoughts, and unable to keep the “reader-like” distance needed to understand what’s being said and why.

She dreaded him as obscurely as she dreaded all things alien to her, an aversion without the sharp edge of hatred, merely as if he were a distant country beyond the frontier where one’s own land merges softly and mournfully with the sky. But since that time she had realized that all happiness had gone out of her life because something made her feel abhorrence of all that was not herself; and whereas formerly she had felt like someone who does not know the inner meaning of her own actions, now it seemed to her that she had merely forgotten that meaning and might perhaps begin to remember it.
When I stop and let the little things that have accumulated in my life just fall away, I often feel this incredible surge of unknown, as if there are oceans of darkness within, some sort of vast emotional terrain that is a cross between labyrinth and maelstrom. These stories tap into that; Musil articulates those folds of impenetrable darkness that lurk within everyone. His women are ponderous and complicated.

I’ve been thinking for some time now that I’d like to re-work one of these two stories into a more dramatic format, either film or stage. I don’t know how it would work yet, but I think it would be a very interesting exercise. I’m planning on re-reading Strindberg’s play Miss Julie because I think it would be a good model for the dramatization of internal conflict and development.