1. For a long time, I used to take my afternoon nap early. Noon had barely passed before I would begin to snooze, my mind poised in the uncertain territory between waking and sleeping as I waited to hear the sound of the garden gate creaking, a sound which I knew betokened my mother’s return from her daily expedition with Mme Vague to walk her dog (a black-and-tan short-haired dachshund whom Bloch would later eulogise as ‘the immortal Egon’) along the path which I had always thought of as ‘Alfina’s Way’, and which brought with it the moment of the day upon which all my thoughts and desires were fixed, the moment at which my mother would ascend to my room, place the lightest of kisses upon my forehead, and deposit by my bedside a silver tray upon which balanced a whisky and soda and a plate of pickles.
    On one such occasion I had waited some minutes before taking the first of the pickles, a round, curiously shiny pickle of the type one so often encounters in the still lifes of the Dutch Masters, dipping it gently into the whisky and soda, raising it to my mouth, and perceiving the taste, that enchanting combination of heat, effervescence and vegetable bitterness, upon my lips. It was at that moment that something extraordinary happened. The taste of the pickle dipped in whisky was having the most unexpected effect . . .
    (continues for 3000 pages . . .)


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