THE INSULT by Rupert Thomson


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 A feverishly imagined tale of a blind man who develops night vision and uses it to search for a vanished lover, this is a surpassingly bleak and defiantly illogical study of obsession from the highly touted Thomson (Air and Fire, 1994, etc.). In a Kafkaesque transformation, Martin Blom awakens in a hospital bed, blind after being struck in the head by a stray bullet while carrying groceries to his car--a blindness that his neurosurgeon says is permanent. Morris's disbelief and self-pity are normal responses, but when he discovers to his wonder that he can see--in the dark--his life assumes a new, furtive meaning. He breaks completely with his past, including parents and fiancÇe, to embrace a nocturnal existence, moving in secret to a disreputable hotel in the heart of the city and making friends with other equally odd creatures of the night. The mysterious Nina enters his life, fulfilling his wildest sexual fantasies. But she breaks with him, then disappears, when she discovers his peculiar powers of sight, leaving a heartbroken Martin under suspicion of foul play. In desperation, and increasingly certain that he's serving as some bizarre sort of guinea pig for his neurosurgeon (his night vision is suddenly replaced by nonstop TV broadcasts in his head), he digs into Nina's past and visits her distant hometown. There, safe from the police, and from the TV signals, Martin settles into a rundown spa and is treated by an elderly woman to an extraordinary tale of incest, retardation, and gruesome violence. Martin and Nina are, it turns out, but the latest victims of the train of events set in motion by the woman's youthful transgression. The pieces of this grim saga remain just that: Vivid fragments in a pattern that fails to cohere. But there is nonetheless a dark, hugely suggestive power at work here, cumulatively having the visceral impact of a nightmare.

Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 1996
ISBN: 0-679-44672-9
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1996


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