In this white darkness, we will take the place of everything
October 29, 2011 4:15 PM   Subscribe

Just wait till we're alone together. Then I will tell you something new, something cold, something sleepy, something of cease and peace and the long bright curve of space. Go upstairs to your room. I will be waiting for you... As a rare October blizzard drifts a blanket of white across the Northeast just before Halloween, what better time to settle in and read (or watch) Conrad Aiken's most famous short story, "Silent Snow, Secret Snow." About a small boy who increasingly slips into an ominous fantasy of isolation and endless snow, it could be viewed as a metaphor about autism, Asperger's syndrome, and even schizophrenia before such conditions even had names. In addition to the 1934 short story, the tale has also been adapted as a creepy 1966 black-and-white short film (also at the Internet Archive) and as a Night Gallery episode (1, 2) narrated by Orson Welles. Or for a more academic take, see the essay "The Delicious Progress" examining Aiken's use of white as a symbol of psychological regression.
posted by Rhaomi (9 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
It occurs to me that the people this story would be most relevant to are probably shivering in the dark with no electricity...

(Also: It's my Mefi-versary! Four years ago to the minute. :P)
posted by Rhaomi at 4:21 PM on October 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

Another ominous fantasy of isolation and snow is Anna Kavan's short and devastating novel Ice, or its alternative version titled Mercury. They are both dismal and dreamlike, hopeless, hallucinatory, and fatalistic.
posted by Nomyte at 4:21 PM on October 29, 2011

A story I return to again and again. That devastating second-to-last paragraph-!

Aiken was also one hell of a poet, by the way.
posted by Iridic at 4:25 PM on October 29, 2011

(I should note I first learned about the story through this eerie video adapted from the 1966 version for the Marble Hornets series.)
posted by Rhaomi at 4:29 PM on October 29, 2011

Happy mefiday Rhaomi!
posted by The Whelk at 4:30 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wonder if this story was the inspiration for the classic religious education short film "Cipher in the Snow."
posted by mecran01 at 6:03 PM on October 29, 2011

Wow, I love this. Thanks. It also reminds me a lot of the first chapter of Infinite Jest.
posted by unknowncommand at 7:17 PM on October 29, 2011

Great, instapapered for the plane tomorrow. Happy mefiday Rhaomi!
posted by arcticseal at 12:15 AM on October 30, 2011

Although Asperger's syndrome is part of the autism spectrum, most people with Asperger's [including me] do not see it as so featureless as endless snow.
posted by RuvaBlue at 12:40 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

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