Posts Tagged Blindness

Authors’ Eye/Insights

Thursday, January 31st, 2019 | Permalink

My recent and ongoing confrontation with post-op cataract surgery complications documented on Facebook prompted my seeking inspiration from other, more eminent authors facing similar (or worse) problems. Though I’m not in their class as a writer (not yet, anyway), we share the frustration and dread for the future as far as our writing is concerned.

Reading through the thumbnail histories of these writers, what stands out is the gamut of reactions each of them have or had to encroaching blindness. As proudly individualistic as their writings, their reactions to blindness range from despair to grudging acceptance to triumphant surmounting their afflictions.

John J. Ross in his essay on medical issues suffered by four British authors cites the example of James Joyce who experienced near-blindness in the painful aftermath of his treatment for gonorrhea. Primitive early 20th century medical techniques cured the disease but he developed terrible attacks of eye pain and arthritis in the process. Despite his twelve eye surgeries and a host of other ailments, he devoted the last two decades of his life creating the paean to language that is Finnegan’s Wake.

Matt Reimann examines some classic and modern writers’ experiences with blindness. Along with Joyce already mentioned above, Homer, John Milton, and Jorge Luis Borges are prime examples of writers overcoming and becoming inspired by their affliction. For Milton blindness was “a divine benefit” which turned “his insight inward” while Borges used it as a secular motivation to become a lecturer and teacher. One of his proudest moments, he claimed, was becoming director of the National Library of Argentina when he could no longer write.

The reasons for these writers and artists’ sight impairments may not have been the most noble or sympathetic, but their responses to the affliction are similar: they found a way to use poor eyesight as motivation to continue on, whether through divine inspiration, humanitarian concern, or dogged determination. That’s a lesson from which all of us have benefited.

 

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