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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Tommaso and the
Blind Photographer


by
Gesualdo Bufalino


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Title: Tommaso and the Blind Photographer
Author: Gesualdo Bufalino
Genre: Novel
Written: 1996 (Eng. 2000)
Length: 183 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: Tommaso and the Blind Photographer - US
Tommaso and the Blind Photographer - UK
Tommaso and the Blind Photographer - Canada
Tommaso et le photographe aveugle - France
  • Italian title: Tommaso e il fotografo cieco
  • Translated by Patrick Creagh

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Our Assessment:

B : artful novel, fairly nicely done

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Boston Globe A 20/11/2000 Jules Verdone
New Statesman B 10/4/2000 Lucy Roeber
The Observer . 7/5/2000 Scott Bradfield
TLS . 19/7/1996 Lilian Pizzichini
TLS . 12/5/2000 Caroline Moorehead


  From the Reviews:
  • "Great literature ? That's debatable. Great reading ? No question." - Jules Verdone, Boston Globe

  • "This posthumously published novel, by the great Sicilian Gesualdo Bufalino, is an exercise in existential dislocation and, as such, is as intriguing as it is hard work. (...) Tommaso and the Blind Photographer is a book about the entanglement of truth and invention. Its chief weakness is its mannered narrative style, particularly the irritating authorial asides. The audience, as in a play, is gripped by the action, yet remains conscious of a different reality behind the costumes." - Lucy Roeber, New Statesman

  • "Like Bufalino's previous work (...) this novel explores the double nature of good fiction - its power to both reconstitute our world and divide us from it." - Scott Bradfield, The Observer

  • "Passages from Dostoevsky and scenes from the film Barefoot in the Park merge with his text, bringing their own associations with them to create a dizzying spiral of allusions. Whereas, previously, story-telling had been an escape into artistic immortality for Bufalino's protagonists, Tommaso, cut off from life, is in danger of reaching a dead end." - Lilian Pizzichini, Times Literary Supplement

  • "Tommaso and the Blind Photographer has been much praised inside Italy for the clarity of its prose -- here excellently translated by Patrick Creagh (...). Yet its lasting effect is one of bleakness." - Caroline Moorehead, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Tommaso and the Blind Photographer, Gesualdo Bufalino's last novel, is narrated by Tommaso Mulè. Nearly fifty, he used to be a journalist and writer but now works essentially as dogsbody and factotum in an apartment building, in exchange for a place to live. He collects rents, passes out the mail, and does what menial jobs need be done.
       Among his few close friends is Bartolomeo, a photographer who hasn't quite fully accepted that he can no longer see and continues to work as a photographer despite his disability. Surprisingly successfully, too.
       At the beginning of the novel the narrator is concerned with making the arrangements for the annual tenants meeting. It is one of the highpoints of the year in the building, bringing everyone together, resolving (or not) some of the major issues the tenants have to deal with. From the expensive elevator to mice infestation to the worry about raised rents a variety of issues are to be covered.
       A friend suggests that Tommaso has: "A very Pascalian awareness of the abyss" -- which can make life quite tough. Life also gets more complicated with various minor and major occurrences -- including some deaths and possible murders, as well as explicit and missing photographs. A mystery of sorts unfolds (or folds), with Tommaso briefly jailed and a variety motives and actors appearing.
       Bufalino writes a a literate and literary novel. Tommaso says of himself:

As for me, I see myself (let's set our sights high) halfway between Krapp of the Last Tape and one of Tommaso Landolfi's spinsters, though not without the disappointed urge to impersonate one of Robert Walser's servile heroes.
       Not your typical sort of hero, in other words. He is an odd fellow -- oh yes, and he is a writer. He wonders especially how to begin his tale, and in an Epiprologue (the last chapter) offers a final twist to what was already a fairly twisted tale.
       Bufalino describes the various characters nicely, but the book is somewhat overpopulated. There are too many tenants scurrying around. They are almost all "a bunch of unhappy people" too, and all fairly eccentric (though only one is carted away to the nuthouse over the course of the novel). A host of other characters are involved as well. The involuted complications of the tale(s) don't help either. Still, Bufalino is, as always, a fine story-teller, and there's considerable enjoyment to be found here too.
       Not his best work, but a good entertainment.

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Links:

Tommaso and the Blind Photographer: Reviews: Gesualdo Bufalino: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Italian literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Italian author Gesualdo Bufalino (1920-1996) is among the most important modern Italian authors.

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