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Blindness of the Heart: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 5, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
The theme of abandonment pervades the novel during its thirty-year time span. Many of the characters, abandoned by people they love, abandon others, in turn, avoiding responsibility on many fronts. Part I changes focus and time completely, from the time of the Prologue back to pre-World War I. The personal stories of several members of the Wursich family, often told in flashbacks, form the backbone of the novel, with the focus on Helene, the youngest daughter of Selma, a housewife with a Jewish background, and Ernst, the owner of a printing company. Helene, nine years younger than her sister Martha, is always an outsider in the social action of the family. Her mother has become a voluntary invalid, and her father, drafted to fight in World War I, returns crippled and half-blind.
When Martha and Helene, feeling abandoned by their parents, in turn abandon their home and move to Berlin with their aunt, Martha finds her escape from the troubles of the times by seeking the high life. Helene seeks academic opportunities and eventually falls in love with a philosophy student, familiar with the theories of Hegel, Kant, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Cassirer.Read more ›
In Julia Franck's brilliant English version (translated by the very talented Anthea Bell), Helene gradually retreats into silence and passivity, losing her ability to communicate effectively. We meet her in the book's prologue as the mother of an eight-year-old boy, leading her son towards a packed train in the direction of Berlin. Before the train arrives she tells him a white lie, abandoning him at a bench, never to return. In the succeeding 400 pages, the reader gains a glimpse as to what drove Helene to this most unnatural act.
Helene is born into a family that defines the word "dysfunction". Her charismatic, morphine-addicted older sister Martha engages her in an incestuous relationship. Her mentally unbalanced "foreign" (i.e., Jewish) mother is unable to connect with her two daughters, totally distancing from them when their father goes off to fight the Great War and becomes grievously injured. When the two sisters gain the chance to flee to Berlin, they grab it and train as nurses, exposing them to the pain of their patients and also giving them ready access to drugs.
Martha fits right into the debauchery and frantic partying of a decaying Berlin with her enlightened free-thinking friend and physician-lover, Leontine, but Helene is far more circumspect and sensitive. Her one enduring love is a philosophy student named Carl who also feels deeply and tells her, "The God principle is built on pain.Read more ›
Franck's novel is a thought-provoking and, at times, unsettling and disturbing story of one person's deep love and loss, loneliness and rejection, responsibility and neglect, and the desperate, sometimes incomprehensible, will to survive. While primarily focusing on the portrayal of Helene, and her difficult relationships to her family and close surroundings, the author, nevertheless, reaches beyond the private and individual sphere into the depiction of sections of a society in chaos and upheaval. This applies especially to the Berlin's "Golden Twenties". Franck goes into some length in bringing to life the exuberant, careless and, with hindsight, totally naive behaviour of the bourgeois middle class.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A deep remarkable and devestatibg account of a young girls discovery of herself and the challenges presented to her and the discoveries required to be understood when noone offers... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Edward Rabinowitz
This is a difficult book. No let up as there were only unhappy characters.
Bitterly depressing. I've made it through three quarters of the book but cannot continue. I'm not one to give up on a book and I've read many intellectually challenging novels but... Read morePublished on January 2, 2014 by mrsrobinson49
I picked this book up at the library, based on the premise, a mother who abandons her small son at a train station at the end of WWII. Read morePublished on December 6, 2013 by Shirley S
I was disappointed because it was the opposite of what I had expected - too dispassionate. I think the story may have lost meaning and feeling in the translation.Published on October 26, 2012 by Amazon Customer
Although this book was very well written and readable I did not particularly care for Blindness of the Heart. Read morePublished on October 6, 2012 by Mermaid
This book was very disappointing. Not enough explanation of why the characters did what they did. The end was too abrupt.Published on May 14, 2012 by Esther Stillman
After reading a number of holocaust books over the last several months, I bought this book at a book sale based on the Amazon recommendations. Read morePublished on December 15, 2011 by C. Ellen Connally
Very slow moving. Maybe it loses something in the translation. I'm 2/3 thru the novel, and it still hasn't approached Nazi acceleration and WWII. Read morePublished on June 12, 2011 by Kathleen M. Kerwin