Memory and images

If I try to conjure up a picture of that waiting-room today I immediately see the Nocturama, and if I think of the Nocturama the waiting-room springs to mind, probably because when I left the zoo that afternoon I went straight into the station, or rather first stood in the square outside it for some time to look up at the façade of that fantastical building, which I had taken in only vaguely when I arrived in the morning. Now, however, I saw how far the station constructed under the patronage of King Leopold II exceeded its purely utilitarian function, and I marvelled at the verdigris-covered negro boy who, for a century now, has sat upon his dromedary on top of an oriel turret to the left of the station façade, a monument to the world of animals and native peoples of the African continent, alone against the Flemish sky. When I entered the great hall of the Centraal Station with its dome arching sixty metres high above it, my first thought, perhaps triggered by my visit to the zoo and the sight of the dromedary, was that this magnificent although then severely dilapidated foyer ought to have cages for lions and leopards let into its marble niches, and aquaria for sharks, octopuses and crocodiles, just as some zoos, conversely, have little railway trains in which you can, so to speak, travel to the farthest corners of the earth.    W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz

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