The young geologist , Alfred Issendorf, is travelling to the foreboding, mosquito laden, interior of Finnmark. He is hoping to prove his professor’s pet theory—that some dead-ice holes may actually be meteor craters—and thereby establish a reputation as a scientist of significance. On his way north, he stops to call on a Professor Nummendal. He is expecting to stop briefly and pick up some aerial photographs that were promised him and that are essential to work. But Nummendal does not seem to know about the photographs. Instead Nummedal takes Issendorf out for coffee, followed by a tedious and geologically ungratifying tour of the surrounding area. This produces a magnificently awkward coffee spill, but nothing in the way of either relaxation or photographs. Issendorf’s expedition becomes a coupling of physical hardship with self-doubt. Bathed in mosquito repellant and uncertainty, Issendorf questions his decision to become a geologist, his companions’ estimation of him, and the value of his expedition. The work is a stark and occasionally funny glimpse at the absurdity of a young scientist’s search for evidence that he is becoming increasingly convinced will not be found, either with or without aerial photographs.
W.F. Hermans is one of the 20th Century’s great novelists. Beyond Sleep is one of his best known works. A copy of Beyond Sleep (originally published as Nooit meer slapen in 1966), along with Hermans’ The Darkroom of Damocles (originally De donkere kamer van Damokles 1958) have been ordered for our circulating collection and will be here very soon. Other recently acquired novels in this genre include Harry Mulisch’s The Discovery of Heaven (De ontdekking van de hemel 1992) and The Procedure (De procedure 1999).