I’ve always envied people who sleep easily. Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed.
I was born an insomniac and that’s the way I’ll die, wasting thousands of hours along the way, longing for unconsciousness, longing for a rubber mallet to crack me in the head, not so hard, not hard enough to do any damage, just a good wack to put me down for the night. But that night I didn’t have the chance. I stared into the blackness until the blackness blurred into gray, until the ceiling above me began to take form and the light from the east dribbled in through the narrow barred window that existed after all.
Only then did I realize that I still had a German knife strapped to my calf.
That was the end of chapter 2* in City of Thieves by David Benioff. The insomniac is imprisoned in Leningrad during the Nazi siege. His crime was looting a dead German soldier. His punishment was supposed to be death, but instead he is sent on a special mission to find 12 eggs so that a Soviet colonel’s daughter can have a traditional wedding cake. In a city where people are willing to eat books – or each other – finding eggs is completely impossible. But it’s the only way he can survive.
I read ten chapters of this book last night, so I expect to finish it by Friday. It’s fast-paced, sad, scary and somehow funny.
*I have added paragraph breaks.