The impressionistic memoir of an artist who was blinded in a sudden act of violence, leading to a profound meditation on what it means to see and be seen
“You live in a city like New York. You read the papers. You look at the television. But you never think it will happen to you. It happened to me one evening.”
One summer night in 1978, Hugues de Montalembert returned home to his New York City apartment to find two men robbing him. In a violent struggle, one of the assailants threw paint thinner in Hugues’ face. Within a few hours, he was completely blind.
Eloquent and provocative, Invisible moves beyond the horrific events of that night to what happened to Hugues after he lost his sight: his rehabilitation, his solo travels around the world, and the remarkable way he learned to “see” even without the use of his eyes.
Without a trace of self-pity, Hugues describes his transition from an up-and-coming painter to a blind man who had to learn to walk with a cane. His status changed in the eyes of other people as their reactions ranged from avoidance to making him their confidant. Hugues traveled to faraway places and learned to trust strangers and find himself at home in any situation.
Part philosophy, part autobiography, part inspiration, Invisible will change the way readers understand reality and their place in the world.
Blinded in a senseless attack in his New York home in 1978, de Montalembert, then a filmmaker and painter, was violently forced out of his intensely visual world. In this raw memoir, more a brainstorming session than a narrative, he approaches his new life with stunning directness, navigating the environs of Manhattan and, not much later, Bali and Greenland, with precocious new confidence and ability. He's also painfully honest about the affects of his blindness, refusing the comfort of standard tropes about spirituality but finding wonder in the kindness of absolute strangers, isolation from those closest to him, and other un-thought-of moments of triumph and despair stemming from the way his condition affects his closest relationships. A French-born artist, de Montalembert will draw inevitable comparisons to Jean-Dominique Bauby (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), and de Montalembert's effort is certainly a more challenging read, stylistically: broken, brief, at times like a prose poem. It depends on the reader whether this approach makes for a cumulative impact, or just gets tiring. Still, de Montalembert vital, determined voice is worth attending.