Top positive review
Less a "whodunnit" than "whodoyoubelieve?"
on 26 September 2013
An early classic by one of the great French writers of the 20th Century, this short novel poses something of a challenge to the reader. It is presented as a diary, or rather a series of notations in two notebooks. These recollections are written by a married
Protestant pastor, the mere fact of which would seem to suggest we're dealing with a truthful, unbiased account of events. However
all is not what it seems. It's worth noting that Gide's original working title was "l'Aveugle" (the blind person), and worth stressing that the French noun can refer either to a male or a female blind person. Well then, having got that out of the way, I can tell you that the events the pastor writes about concern a young blind girl that he has taken into his care. At the outset she is mute and unresponsive, uneducated and unfamiliar with the world. The pastor takes it upon himself to educate this girl, whom he calls Gertrude. In the process he manages to alienate his wife (Amelie) and his 20yr old son (Jacques), and to fall hopelessly in love with his protegee. When Gertrude undergoes an operation which restores her sight, she comes to the terrible realisation that it was not the wrinkly old pastor she loved, but his handsome young son Jacques. In torment she tries to drown herself, and dies a few days later. Was this a story of the blind leading the blind? of none so blind as he who will not see? Was our pastor devious and dishonest, or sincere but misguided? Was Gertrude entirely blameless? Undoubtedly, the conclusions we reach tell us as
much about ourselves and our prejudices as they do about Gide and his fictional characters. A real cracker of a book and a must for any serious reader.