With darkly swollen sails, the ship traveled over chasms that were filled with water. The air had been saturated for an extraordinarily long time with light whirlwinds, and the new day, as if trying to triumph over the white light, was clear and cold, and completely illuminated with a silvery brightness. Everything on deck looked hard and formless and not at all in keeping with the slight motion of water and wind. Long before nightfall, warm, suffocating vapors were wafted across the deck and the livid cold blended surprisingly quickly with the mild haze. Walls of fog closed in on the vessel. Clouds that seemed to have just appeared fell abruptly and seethed about the ship. Masts and sails grew to gigantic proportions. Only a short while before, the horizon had been a thing that could be measured. Now, suddenly, everything visible was narrowed down. The man-made structure hung suspended, alone in a sea of fog, as if fallen from the earth. Tops of masts disappeared into infinity, blood black sails were harried by ashen fumes foaming around them. From time to time, the prow of the ship took a nose dive into the clouds and ceased to exist in the eyes of the men. The waters of the ocean were sticky slime that adhered to the hull. (p.82)
Hans Henny Jahnn (1896 - 1959) was a German expressionist novelist and playright. The Ship, the prologue to a never-completed trilogy, is a dense and unsettling story in its own right, a kind of philosophical horror tale of an irrational schooner hauling mysterious cargo amid waves of mistrust and recrimination. It’s amazing. Among its most striking traits is Jahnn’s use of descriptions from outside the narrative (like intercut images in film) as model, explanation, and emphasis for the events on the ship. More quotes after the jump.