At Passau the traveller feels that the flowing of the river is a yearning for the sea. That sense of life-to-the-full, that gift of the blood pressure, or of some acid benevolently secreted by the brain, was something I really felt in the alleys and on the river-banks of Passau; or do I just think I felt it because I am now trying to describe it a table at the Caffè San Marco? On paper one probably pretends, one invents every kind of happiness. Writing may not really be able to give a voice to utter desolation, to the nullity of life, to those moments when it is simply a void, privation and horror. The mere fact of writing in some way fills the void, gives it form, makes the horror of it communicable and therefore, even if minimally, triumphs over it. There are in existence many sublimely tragic pages, but for someone who is dying or wants to die even those wondrous pages of sorrow would sound trumped up, terrifyingly inadequate to the sorrow of the instant.
Absolute privation cannot speak. Literature speaks of it and to some extent exorcizes it, overcomes it, transforms it into something else, converts its unyielding, unapproachable otherness into current coinage. The hesitant traveller, who in his travels does not know what line to pursue, on re-reading his own notes discovers with some surprise that he was a little happier and more at ease, and above all more resolute and decisive, than he thought he was while actually on the road. He finds that he has given clean, clear answers to the questions that pester him, in the hope of one day being able to believe those answers himself.
– Claudio Magris (Danube, p. 118)