THE PARABLE OF THE BLIND by Gert Hofmann

THE PARABLE OF THE BLIND

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Hofmann (The Spectacle A t The Tower, Our Conquest) has written a spare, surprisingly electric novella whose chief narrator is one of the 16th-century blind subjects from Breughel's masterpiece, The Parable of the Blind. Everything happens in a single day: the blind beggars waking, entering the village where Breughel is to paint them; the curiosity and cruelty of the townspeople; the actual posing. Which involves--recall the painting--falling, tripping headlong into a stream. And screaming--in fright, outrage, utter disadvantage. The blind man who narrates speaks in the first-person plural (""So that's us, being seen and becoming smaller or bigger. Anyway, nobody comes to us in the hollow, also nobody calls to us, but probably people can see us walking with soft uncertain footsteps out of the hollow and vanishing over the horizon. Then people will soon have seen enough and told themselves: O, it's only them!""). Brueghel himself is the only other narrative participant, awash in doubts and passions (""And when he wants to paint the scream, he also wants to paint the terror, what can be seen of the terror""). There's a curious Barthelme-like exteriority to the blind man's narration, while to Breughel nothing could be more interior than these poor wretches, bringing up as they do the questions of art's manipulation, exploitation. The contrast is done very intelligently--as is the whole theological parable the painting represents, after all: Are we all blind? Is God the painter? Lean, effective, and subtle work, the best by Hofmann to be translated here so far.

Pub Date: Jan. 24th, 1985
Publisher: Fromm