ECLIPSE: A Nightmare by Hugues de Montalembert

ECLIPSE: A Nightmare

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A globe-trotting French painter of noble lineage and comfort, de Montalembert lived in New York, in Greenwich Village, when he was attacked by three intruders and blinded by a caustic solution thrown in his face. His interest in and investigations into the world of Harlem voodoo may or may not have played a part in the tragedy, but this memoir quickly leaves the sighted past behind as de Montalembert goes on to recount how he learned to live in darkness. Comfort quickly proves hollow: though he at first stays in a friend's posh hotel suite, he still falls over furniture. He takes a hair-raising solo walk uptown (going to console his rather hysterical ballet-dancer lover Valushka) and does fine until he loses track of how many streets he's crossed. He finds the well-meaning rehabilitation services of The Lighthouse far too mundane for his life-style and artistic interests. Medically, his travails are as severe and disappointing: an experimental procedure by a callous Barcelona eye-surgeon fails miserably--and the book ends with de Montalembert in Java, a former haunt, now finding that the uncivilized world is little easier to navigate in darkness than is the civilized. The emptiness and mockery of luxury and ""life-style"" once overwhelmed by disaster is the putative theme here, perhaps; you aren't ever quite sure, thanks to the groping style of the writing, which comes in only two flavors: wooden or floral (""And the labyrinth has exploded into galaxies echoing into the infinite. You have released in me the music of all musics and within us arises the thunderous cathedral of poetry's plain song."") Prose like this makes sympathy strained no matter the integrity of its object.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Viking