That's the title in English of the excellent translation by Christopher Middleton of this novella by Gert Hofmann, a German writer born in 1931. Gert is the father of the poet and translator Michael Hofmann, and I thought I had discovered the Father by way of the Son, whose translations of Joseph Roth and other German writers into English have impressed me. I found the elder Hofmann's novel "Der Kinoerzähler" so impressive that I bought the younger Hofmann's translation of it, "The Film Explainer", for my non-German-reading wife. Then I bought Der Blindensturz, in high anticipation that I had `discovered' a new and significant German writer. But by the bottom of the first page, I realized that I'd read the book before, years ago, that I already had Middleton's translation right in my own bookcase.
Nothing lost, nevertheless. Gert Hofmann's poetic prose is well worth reading again in the orginal Deutsch. Der Blindensturz is a painting in prose, almost literally, since the tale is based on the famous painting by Pieter Breughel of six blind beggars staggering into a ditch. In the novella, the beggars are "hired" by a painter to pose; as they trudge to the site to meet the artist, they collectively narrate their personal histories of blindness and beggary. We readers "see" life through their sightless eyes, and we approach the experience of being seen without seeing ourselves.
The English title, The Parable of the Blind, implies a meaning in the tale just waiting to be explicated. Yes, there is a profound `meaning' in Hofmann's portrayal of blind dependency, but it's not a moral, not an explicit lesson for life, and I'd feel guilty about spoiling the book by telling any reader what to think of it in advance. Suffice it to say that Gert Hofmann is, after all, a "new and significant German writer" whose work is acessible to anglophones in high quality translations.
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Aug 14, 2010
Aug 31, 2010 06:58 PM UTC
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On the surface this deceptively simple narrative is the story of how the blind beggars came to be painted by Pieter Brueghel. His painting was also called "The Parable of the Blind." Cast in prose, the parable evokes an even more distressing picture of the fate of man. The words more variously and pathetically image the condition of humanity, which lives "in darkness, so to speak, forever." Hofmann, a German writer, manifests an essential skepticism of the "ways of the world" and how people interact and communicate with one another. In this most understated of satires he has created an eloquent allegory of the modern age, a spare but revealing picture of alienation, confusion, and insensitivity. Recommended for all literature collections. Carol J. Lichtenberg, Washington State Univ. Lib., Pullman Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.