(Music in the Night)
As I lay down, I turned on the radio set standing on the wine crate beside the bed. The names of cities and radio stations with which I used to link the most exotic ideas in my childhood appeared on its round, illuminated dial --- Monte Ceneri, Rome, Ljubljana, Stockholm, Beromünster, Hilversum, Prague, and others besides. I turned the volume down very low and listened to a language I did not understand drifting in the air from a great distance: a female voice, which was sometimes lost in the ether, but then emerged again and mingled with the performance of two careful hands moving, in some place unknown to me, over the keyboard of a Bösendorfer or Pleyel and playing certain musical, passages, I think from the "Well-Tempered Clavier," which accompanied me far into the realms of slumber.
When I woke in the morning, only a faint crackle and hiss was coming from the narrow brass mesh over the loudspeaker. Soon afterward, when I mentioned the mysterious radio at breakfast, Austerlitz told me he had always imagined that the voices moving through the air after the onset of darkness, only a few of which we could catch, had a life of their own, like bats, and shunned the light of day. "In the long, sleepless nights of recent years," he said, "when l was listening to the women announcers in Budapest, Helsinki, or La Coruña, I often saw them weaving their erratic way far out in the air, and wished I were already in their company."
--- From "Austerlitz," by W. G. Sebald
Translated by Anthea Bel
©2001 The New Yorker