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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Hervé Guibert

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To purchase Blindsight

Title: Blindsight
Author: Hervé Guibert
Genre: Novel
Written: 1985 (Eng. 1996)
Length: 119 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Blindsight - US
Blindsight - UK
Blindsight - Canada
Des aveugles - Canada
Des aveugles - France
Blinde - Deutschland
  • French title: Des aveugles
  • Translated by James Kirkup

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Our Assessment:

B+ : appealingly stylish and odd, but also has a writing-exercise quality to it

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Fall/1997 Marc Lowenthal

  From the Reviews:
  • "Everything is surface, and if depth (psychological or otherwise) manifests itself, it is as the depth of a needle into an eye or the void through which a misguided body might fall. Across this synesthetic horizon, touch becomes noisy, smells become sights, and faces become as undefined as desires. This ambiguity of definition is what ultimately creates the novel's suspense." - Marc Lowenthal, Review of Contemporary Fiction

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:

       A first-person narrator occasionally -- very occasionally -- briefly pops up in Blindsight, in his role as a volunteer reader to the blind at the institute for the blind where the novel is set. A brief note at the beginning of the book reveals that: "This fiction originated in an experiment conducted by Hervé Guibert" at such an institute, where Guibert also served as a volunteer reader.
       The narrator presents himself (when he finally does first appear, well into the book) as a subversive reader:

I had submitted a list of works that I wished to read, a make-believe list intended to attract and reassure the administration, but this was supplemented by another list, not even folded or concealed in a pocket because it could not be written down and was in itself barely conceivable, or imaginable, so utterly did it fly in the face of conscience and charity.
       Guibert, too, has a pronounced subversive streak, and while the narrator remains a secondary character his fate, as he finds himself subverted, is one of the nice, macabre twists that Guibert offers in this slim book.
       The central characters are the blind Robert and Josette, longtime residents of the institute. Always very close to one another, their relationship is tested when Josette finds herself drawn to the new would-be masseur at the institute, Monsieur Taillegueur ("Pronounced 'Tiger'", a translator's note helpfully explains ...) and gets involved with him (which involves, among other things, some rather unlikely sexual gymnastics).
       Three's a crowd, so the plan becomes to do away with one. Among the options bandied about:
[D]o you think he still has hopes of being able to see one day ? We could mock up a prospectus for a corneal graft, I could change my voice and pass myself off as a surgeon, I'd graft him a bit of diseased cornea, degenerated like, a cornea from some mangy beast with rabies.
       What plot there is to the novel seems almost like an afterthought; the relationships among all these blind people are explored but the presentation is almost haphazard. There is some backstory about a number of the characters, but what Guibert really likes to focus on presenting is this sightless world and how the characters move through it. From the concern about clothes and appearance -- Robert's biker-outfit, the mink coat Josette splurges on -- to how the characters live and behave, Guibert is fascinated by this sensory alter-world -- and by how to describe and present it.
       The characters are all remarkably independent, often passing for people who haven't lost their sight -- though they also can get taken advantage of (so Josette's mink coat isn't the pure white color she desired and was led to believe it is). They venture out into the "world of the sighted", but also happily retreat to this familiar one, where they are completely at ease -- arguably too much at ease, as the world here is one of dissolution.
       Stylishly written (and translated), and with a macabre sense of humor throughout, Blindsight is an appealingly unsettling little read. It does, however, also read somewhat like a writing-exercise (by a first-rate writer, admittedly), with too little of an actual story and too many easy flourishes.

- M.A.Orthofer, 8 June 2010

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Hervé Guibert: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature

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About the Author:

       French author Hervé Guibert lived 1955 to 1991.

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© 2010 the complete review

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