Sometimes a book I’ve read confuses me: I look it up to see what others have said and thought. I got no further enlightenment, however, from the critics and reviewers who raved about this book, as if it was the greatest thing since I don’t know what.
I read Magris’ Danube a number of years ago, and enjoyed it, and on the back of it, decided to try Blindly. It was pretty much a mistake, and a waste of eyeball time.
A man – in some kind of hospital, I suspect a mental institution, talks to a doctor or psychiatrist of some kind, who never replies. The entire book is a monologue. The man tells several stories, interwoven (or jumbled, take your pick) of several characters he claims to have been in the past – a short term king of Iceland, a Danish adventurer, a convict banished to Tasmania in the early nineteenth century, an Italian or Yugoslav partisan during the Second World War. Oppressed, and on the side of the oppressed, he is keenly aware of the ways in which attempts at revolution, changing the world, bettering it for ordinary folk, seem to end up corrupting and destroying themselves, the oppressed eventually becoming the oppressors, and concealed near the end there seems to be a vision of Mikhail Gorbachev as the ultimate betrayer – I think… but I didn’t need 450 pages to go around the houses telling me that.
There are times when I worry because I haven’t enjoyed, or got anything from, a book that is supposed to be a good one. Am I going soft, losing my touch, my critical faculties, or what? In this case, I really don’t think so, and I gave Magris the benefit of the doubt, and stuck with it to the end.