The Bruise is a novel of imperative voice and raw sensation. In the sterile dormitories and on the quiet winter greens of an American university, a young woman named M-- deals with the repercussions of a strange encounter with an angel, one which has left a large bruise on her forehead. Was the event real or imagined? The bruise does not go away, forcing M-- to confront her own existential fears. M--’s wavering desire to tell the story of her imagination is that of the writer, breathless, desperate, and obsessive, questioning the mutations and directions of her words while writing with fevered immediacy. With rhythmic language and allusions to literature and art, Magdalena Zurawski reclaims the university bildungsroman as an intelligent and moving form.
If I had actually spent any part of that first night asleep, it is difficult for me to know now, though no more difficult than it was for me to know then. I had believed, I think, for a long time, and perhaps I still do, that I had not slept at all that first night of my final year. I had not dozed, or at least believed that I had not dozed, even a tiny bit, but only lay there in my bed, looking out into the darkness inside the four walls. It was not just the experience of an unfamiliar room that kept me from rest, though that was, of course, part of it. But I had had new dormitory rooms three times before, one at the start of each school year, so this experience, an unfamiliar room, a new bed, was, actually, not completely new, but, now, as I begin to write, it seems clear that there was something palpably different that night. The confusion was palpable even before it became definite, as if already as I prepared myself for bed something unfamiliar hovered inside the room. But the fact that I was not sleeping was nothing new, though maybe I had been sleeping, but, in any case, I thought I wasn't, and this thought, this feeling, too, was nothing new because each time I had ever tried to sleep the first night in a new dormitory room I had not been able to sleep well or sleep at all. It stands to reason, then, that on this particular night too, I could not sleep or, at least, could not sleep very well or very much.
It is this confusion that makes my fourth and final time in a new dormitory room different, because although on the three other first nights in a new dormitory room I had not slept well, I had at least known that I had slept, not well, but I had slept. There was no doubt in my mind that I had slept, that I had each time, one way or another, no matter my mood or the circumstances surrounding the start of a new semester, fallen asleep. But this last time I had not known, am still not sure, if I had actually been sleeping, though it seems that I must have been. Or, maybe it's possible that I only thought the entire night that I was not asleep, but actually I was asleep and was only dreaming that I was awake, dreaming that I was staring out into the blank space of the dark room, watching my own thoughts make shadows on the wall until I felt her in bed next to me, breathing against my neck. And then I was too frightened to think my own thoughts. That's what I believe happened: though I thought that I was awake, thought that I was not asleep, I had, in actuality, I think, at least part of the time, been asleep, and in my sleep she visited me. She must have visited me. She must have been the dream. But you see, I could not know as I slept that I was actually sleeping because as I slept, I dreamt that I was awake. I dreamt that I was awake and that I was not alone in the room: she had finally come to visit me.