The Parable of the Blind

“A knocking on the barn door drags us out of our sleep. No, the knocking isn’t inside us, it’s outside, where the other people are.” With that, six blind beggars in 16th century Flanders–a ragged, profane, and irascible crew–find themselves waking to yet another grim day in the dark. Today, however, something is different. Today these men have an appointment with a painter: they have been hired as models, to pose for Pieter Bruegel’s grotesque masterpiece-in-the-making, The Parable of the Blind. With startling verbal ingenuity and black humor worthy of Beckett or José Saramago, Gert Hofmann’s novel follows this tattered sextet’s shambling progress across a Renaissance landscape peopled by half-heard voices and unseen dangers, towards their ultimate encounter with the great, capricious artist, and (perhaps) their own immortality. A profound (and profoundly skeptical) meditation on the pitfalls and contradictions of art-making, and the fragility of human communities, The Parable of the Blind stands as a high-water mark of postwar German literature.

One of the great novelists of the second half of the twentieth century.
Gabriel Josipvici, TLS

The most singular writer to come out of Germany since Heinreich Böll.
The Times [London]

One of Germany’s most respected postwar authors.
Publishers Weekly

“Parable” offers sly, striking contemporary commentary on the precariousness of language and facts, and, in particular, on the need to negotiate unstable ground—literally, but also socially and politically—afresh each day. —The New Yorker

Gert Hofmann was a prolific German writer of both novels and radio-plays. In the 1980s, he won prizes such as the Prix Italia and the Doblin prize. He is most well known for examining mortality and the resonances of Nazism in postwar Germany. His 1985 novel, Der Blindensturz was translated into English by Christopher Middleton in 1989, and retitled The Parable of the Blind.

Christopher Middleton was a British poet, professor, and translator. He specialized in Germanic Languages & Literature, and was a professor at the University of Texas from 1966 to 1998. He has translated works from many German authors, including Nietzsche, Hölderlin, and Hoffman, and has been awarded the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, as well as the Schlegel-Tieck prize for translation.