Golden Hill - Francis Spufford

"The brig Henrietta having made Sandy Hook a little before the dinner hour - and having passed the Narrows about three o´clock -  and then crawling to and fro, in a series of tacks infinitesimal enough to rival the calculus, across the grey sheet of harbour of New-York - until it seemes to Mr Smith, dancing from foot to foot upon deck, that the small mound of the city waiting there would hover ahead in the November gloom in perpetuity, never growing closer, to the smirk of Greek Zeno - and the day beginning advanced to dusk by the time Henrietta at last lay anchored off Tietjes Slip, with the veritable gables of the city´s veritable houses devided from him only by hundred foot of water - and the dusk moreover being as cold and damp and dim as November can afford, as if all the world were a quarto of grey paper dampened by drizzle until in danger of crumbling imminently to pap: - all this being true, the master of the brig pressed upon him the virtue of sleeping this one further night aboard, and pursuing his shore business in the morning (He meaning by the offer to signal his esteem, having found Mr Smith a pleasant companion during the slow weeks of crossing.)"


I sat about five minutes over the very first sentence, trying to figure out what the author wants to tell me. That´s what I came up with:


There is a ship heading towards New York, there is a swell (don´t get the calculus reference, to be honest), a Mr Smith is impatient because it seems like they never will reach the harbour (I have never heard of the greek philosopher Zeno - and I like to believe that the average reader doesn´t know him either - but apparently for him motion is nothing but an illusion). They anchor and it´s November and it´s bleeping cold and damp and the whole world seems to be a wet piece of paper. Hence the reason for the captain to keep Mr Smith on the boat for another night. Plus he is a nice guy to talk to.


Truth to be honest I would have made four or five sentences out of this monstrosity and fortunately Spufford doesn´t keep on with this on the following pages.