Waiting for the Dog to Sleep

Waiting for the Dog to Sleep is a collection of short stories by Polish author Jerzy Ficowski.

The following excerpt is from “The Passing Settlement”:

I don’t know and have never known its name. But this settlement is easy to recognize by its brevity, its rapid passing, almost at the very moment of greeting it we must bid farewell. The train carries us past too quickly for it to be counted among places graced with topographical names; it is doubtless just one of those minor attractions organized for us, the long-distance travelers, by the State Railway, in the interest of alleviating boredom.

I have seen it repeatedly, I have even measured its distance: it stretches alongside the tracks for sixteen quick clacks of the wheels; by the seventeenth it is already gone, and only versts of empty meadows run smooth in its wake. I’m not even sure if it’s only on the Warsaw-Bialystok line that I’ve seen it or somewhere else as well. I get the feeling that I always pass it, no matter where I’m going, on those parts if the journey where the train has gathered the most speed, halfway between two distant stations.

Ficowski continues:

Due to its inaccessibility, the settlement is the subject of my boldest hypotheses and conjectures, which are all the more true in that they are unverifiable. Ephemeral, summoned into existence in the space of an instant behind a train window, it confirms all of my suppositions, every speculation; it cannot, after all, say anything to contradict them. And so, initially featureless, the settlement is gradually penciled in with the meaning I have nominated for it, and yet it is capable of renouncing this meaning at any moment in the name of my changing whims.

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