It’s a true story. The insomniac in question was an early member of the French Academy, who died in 1644, a certain Canon Nicolas Bourbon, famous for the fact that he could write only in Latin. He was the second to occupy the chair which was to be, 330 years later, that of Claude Lévi-Strauss and presently of Amin Maalouf, whose recent “Un Fauteuil sur la Seine”, is the source of this anecdote.
The Canon was a chronic non-sleeper. The most insignificant event, like an invitation to dinner, could keep him awake all night. He was one of the Academy’s least brilliant Immortals, but like all of them he died, aged 70. No doubt he believed he would graduate from the terrestrial Academy to the celestial, where he would live forever, or as he would have said, “ad vitam aeternam”. The jokester who wrote his epitaph took “eternal rest” literally, and imagined his heavenly bliss as sleep at last.
Of course, the Canon never discovered that even that was wishful thinking. At least his eternal night would not be spent awake.