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Om forfatteren

Marina Benjamin was arts editor of the New Statesman and deputy arts editor at the Evening Standard.

Værker af Marina Benjamin

Associated Works

New Scientist, 15 January 1994 (1994) — Bidragyder — 2 eksemplarer

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London, England, UK



Unable to settle in one position for more than a few beats, I try them all out in turn: the plank, the foetal curl, the stomach-down splat. Each of these poses is contrived insofar as it corresponds to an idea of what relaxation looks like.

I've been an insomniac my whole life, and it always took me hours to get to sleep. After being prescribed some tablets that had drowsiness as a side effect, it seemed to break my problem with getting to sleep even after I stopped taking those tablets, but gradually I developed a problem with staying asleep and now I wake up several times a night, which is worse in some ways.

Unable to relax into the companionability of night, I am forced to patrol my own borders.
… (mere)
isabelx | 2 andre anmeldelser | Nov 27, 2023 |
Insomnia by Marina Benjamin is presented as a memoir, but it could be better described as a collection of vignettes exploring the topic of sleep and the author's insomnia.

A slim read, journalist and author Marina Benjamin takes the reader on a tour through her sleepless nights, as well as the thoughts and writings of famous poets and philosophers on the topic of sleep and insomnia. After a while, these mini-essays, observations, musings and ponderings begin to paint a literary mural about sleep - one of my favourite topics - and what it's like not being able to get it.

As a rule, I generally don't like reading books without chapters. However, the arc of Insomnia is more dreamlike and doesn't lend itself well to a specific structure and the lack of chapters here seemed logical. Each 'idea' is presented in a short/long paragraph with a decent break until the next one which allows the reader to stop - or keep going - without the mental interruption of a chapter break.

Here's one of the vignettes I enjoyed the most, thanks to her suggested collective noun:

"You would think that writing on insomnia has turned me into some kind of expert! Practically everyone I meet now tells me about their sleep troubles. It often turns out to be one of those earplug moments, since there is barely a story I have not heard, a pill I've not tried, or a method I haven't worked before. But it is the mathematics of insomnia that really kills me: the never-ending count of hours lost and gained logged in the ledger of sleep missed and unexpectedly found that every insomniac carries in their head as an account of their own sorry deficiency. Perhaps, after all, the collective noun that fits us best is a calculation of insomniacs." Page 52

As you can see, Benjamin has a personable writing style and her musings are relatable. In this slim book she talks about acquiring a nocturnal literacy and I think it's safe to say she's attained this.

"Besides, intrusive thinking is just one way the insomniac brain stokes itself. Harder to fathom (and to treat) is the freewheeling, seemingly autonomous tripping through utter banality, the night-time regurgitation of daytime crud - of the stuff that doesn't actually merit deliberation - that moves like an arm-linked chain of can-can dancers through a demi-wakefulness that exists beyond any conscious control, but (and this is the source of frustration) is conscious enough - kick, and kick, and kick - that you have to clock it." Page 85

Every reader can relate to bouts of sleeplessness or wakefulness, but Benjamin describes her insomnia so convincingly that I was able to understand her experience on a deeper level:

"Too often my insomniac mind is stuck in crud-chewing mode. It feeds me snippets of song, meshed with advertorial-type sloganising that might, in turn, trigger a memory from childhood before pinging back to a thought-of desire (a want) or to something I saw on the internet, or something someone told me - then on again, unpredictable, inconsequential, threading and worming inside my head. Nothing is more inimical to rest and yet I am powerless to stop it. It is like waterboarding the mind with meaningless overflow, a smothering drip, drip, drip of surplus thought." Page 85-86

I wonder how many writers feel the same way the author does in this passage:

"But then the fear that presses in on me is that my work might be fated never to transcend the neurotic. The very idea that this may be the case is so profoundly disturbing, so unsettling, it is as if the ground I walk on had begun to bubble and liquefy. Writing for me is both compass and anchor." Page 98

The idea that writing can be both a compass and an anchor really made me stop and consider.

Marina Benjamin is obviously well read and I enjoyed the snippets she shares on all manner of topics, including literature, art, history, psychology and philosophy. With an interest in sleep and insomnia, I enjoyed accompanying Benjamin on her self guided tour of famous writings about these topics, but the elements of memoir were far less enjoyable for me.

Insomnia by Marina Benjamin is recommended for insomniac readers who enjoy memoirs and essays and those interested in the topic of sleep and insomnia.
… (mere)
Carpe_Librum | 2 andre anmeldelser | Oct 26, 2022 |
Ich weiß nicht, ein sehr seltsames Buch. Mindestens in der ersten Hälfte jammert die Autorin nervtötend über das Älterwerden. Das wäre alles nicht so schlimm, wenn sie nicht so jung wäre, sie hat den 50. Geburtstag da noch vor sich. Ich fand das genauso nervig wie das Buch von Lisa Ortgies. Ja, das Altern ist nicht immer schön und hat auch hässliche Seiten und man muss sich mit vielem arrangieren, von dem man nie geglaubt hätte, dass man selbst einmal betroffen sein könnte. Aber wenn man in den 40ern schon auf so hohem Niveau jammert, wie will man dann die nächsten Jahrzehnte leben?… (mere)
Patkue | Nov 1, 2020 |
Insomnia captures the fractured experience of insomnia itself. It swerves between lyrical prose about the sensory experience of insomnia, anecdotes about its everyday (night) consequences, and reflections on sleep and its lack as they appear in art, philosophy and science.

There’s a beautiful section at the beginning describing the different shades of darkness as Benjamin moves wakefully through a sleeping house. There’s a weary accounting of all the remedies she has tried to no avail and a humorous glimpse into the trials of cognitive-behavioural therapy. There’s a discussion on beds and bedrooms through the ages including the nocturnal conversations and books and even haircuts which Pepys describes undertaking in his.

Like the wakeful mind in the early hours, she roves between these subjects, each assuming its own importance, just as, before dawn, fear of the coming climate apocalypse and the cutting remark of a colleague in the staff kitchenette can assume an equal, terrible weight.

As a long-time insomniac, many things here resonated with me – the odd reversal where you feel alert at night but barely able to function by day, a ghost in your own life. The endless running monologue in your head. Despite it all, an odd ambivalence – a sense that those wakeful nights are free of constraint and that without them something might be lost.

Benjamin quotes a line from the medieval Islamic poet Rumi: ‘every human being streams at night into the loving nowhere’. Is it that ‘nowhere’ that our mind fears? Is that the reason behind its insistent chatter?

If you’re an insomniac, you will find much here that you recognise and perhaps some reassurance that you are not alone. If you are not, it will offer some insight into the frazzled mind of any bleary-eyed ghosts in your life.
I received a copy of Insomnia from the publisher.
Read more of my reviews on my blog https://katevane.com/blog
… (mere)
KateVane | 2 andre anmeldelser | Feb 18, 2019 |


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