In 1568, Flemish Renaissance painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder completed a piece, hanging today in a museum in Naples, titled "The Blind Leading the Blind". In the painting, six blind men are depicted walking off a bridge into the water below as they follow their leader, unknowingly to their soggy disgrace. Gert Hofman's book, "The Parable of the Blind", the same title Bruegel's painting is sometimes called, brings to life the six blind men and reveals their thoughts on the day of the painting.
The book joins the blind men as they arise on the day of the painting. Excited yet anxious, the men attempt to make their way from the barn where they inexplicably sleep to the painter's house, on the other side of town. They get lost, made fun of by local villagers, tricked by a young boy they trust, and wind up stranded in a rainy field before finally reaching their destination. Being painted is not what the blind men thought it would be, however, and they end up defeated and humiliated by the experience.
Written in the simplest of language, "The Parable of the Blind" is a powerful story that not only addresses the exploitative relationship between an artist and his subject, but also speaks to the basic existential struggles of modern man. At a fleeting one hundred fifty pages, the book is easy enough to read in one sitting yet deep enough to reread at a more leisurely pace, and will not be forgotten regardless of how it is read. If possible, check out the painting prior to reading the book- pay close attention to the faces of the falling blind men- as this will enhance the reading experience.