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Invisible: A Memoir Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 12, 2010

16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
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"When Hugues de Montalembert was blinded in a sudden, terrible act of violence, he set out to see the world. In luminous and sensual language, he recounts his journeys through Indonesia, the Himalayas, and Greenland. But he also charts a journey into the deepest places of the heart, where fear and courage, love and rage create spectacular vistas most of us will never see. As much poem as memoir, Invisible is like a streak of lightning against an ink-black sky." -- Geraldine Brooks, bestselling author of March and winner of the Pulitzer Prize

"Hugues de Montalembert writes beautifully. With a rare and enviable discipline and a becoming modesty, he has distilled what is essential from a life lived through and then beyond (far, far beyond!) misfortune." -- Kate Braestrup, bestselling author of Here If You Need Me

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; 1st edition (January 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416593667
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416593669
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,995,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Born in France, Hugues de Montalembert is a painter and photographer who was blinded during a violent assault while living in New York in 1978. He is the author of one previous book in English, ECLIPSE (1985). His story was also the basis of the acclaimed documentary film BLACK SUN (2007). He currently lives in Paris.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By language lover on February 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of the most powerful books I have read. It is about what is life really about after all, personal strength, the reality of discouragement, facing very challenging change, and the critical importance about believing in one's ability to lead a rewarding life. I have only just finished it, and will wait a little while before returning to read it again. Although the author doesn't gloss over the extraordinary difficulties he has encountered in his thinking about living without sight, I am uplifted and encouraged by him. This is a tremendous little volume, and one I recommend to anyone who is interested in how people summon courage and intelligence to thrive despite life's most difficult suprises.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By wordsmith on January 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is an amazing memoir about a painter who was blinded many years ago when burglars attacked him in his New York City apartment. Since then he's traveled the world alone trying to maintain his independence despite his blindness. His writing is very visceral and moving and leaves quite an impact. It reminded me of William Styron's Darkness Visible. I've heard the author on NPR before and he's a great speaker.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By The Lit Witch on February 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
Invisible is a short book and, owing to the fact that some of the pages have only a sentence or two on them, is a quick read. It is a bit of a misnomer to have called this book a memoir, as it is not a memoir in any traditional sense. It is in fact a series of short essays or brief observations likely jotted down by Montalembert over the first few years after his attack. Those snippets are strung together in loosely chronological order and read like a stream of consciousness... brief and loosely connected thoughts that together, follow Montelambert through the healing process - both physical and psychological - after his attack.

Montelambert's style is spartan... lots of simple sentences and sometimes no more than one or two of those to complete a thought. At first, I found that style off-putting; it felt like caveman speak. But the further I read, the further I adapted to the style and began to appreciate it for it's conciseness. His story is an inspiring one: blind within 24 hours of his attack (paint thinner was thrown in his face), took one and a half years of rehabilitation to learn to navigate the world on his own... then promptly hopped a plane and travelled to Indonesia alone just to prove he could.

While in Indonesia, he wrote his first book. He also travelled to India to try to track down a girl he had met and instead immersed himself in the culture, met a spiritual leader, etc. Is this starting to sound at all familiar? It did to me. At this point, I actually set the book down to see which was published first - Invisible or Eat, Pray, Love. Gilbert got her book on the market first, but since Montelambert's journeys happened first, I couldn't help but wonder if she had heard somewhere of his "healing travels" and based her itinerary thereon. Who knows...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By k on June 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Read this if you are looking for a break from the typically vapid stuff that passes for memoir these days. This is a beautifully written, fragmented philosophical reflection on what it means to suffer and still have hope, both in yourself and in humanity. Very powerful.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Book Him Danno on September 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This short book will make you think about life and how you are living it. Are you waiting for something to happen before you actually get out there and live? Blinded by two thieves this author learned to live his life to the fullest. He had a full life before the blindness, but after he refused to let it change things. He traveled and saw the world without the help of his eyes. He met people who opened up to him because they couldn't look into his eyes and see his judgments. He learned that there are worse things that can happen in life then losing one's sight.

Where do you fit in this world? What do you have to give and what can others give you. I loved this book and it took a bit over an hour to read. My favorite few paragraphs are at the very end. I don't want to spoil it for you, but it made me think that life is full of people who need our compassion and help yet we don't see them. Who will see them if we don't?

Read this book, take an hour or two and really think about what the pages are saying. This is a book for anyone and everyone. This will change the way you see everyday life. Beauty surrounds us, but do we really ever truly see it? READ THIS BOOK!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jay on September 29, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As another reviewer said, this is indeed a prose poem ... a haunting work for the best reasons. His writing is crisp and understated, delivering the goods about what it means to live fully after a tragic and life-changing event. I stand in awe of his courage to live independently after being blinded by paint thinner in a fight with burglars. His story is a true testament to the potential resilience of human nature, and it has exerted such a powerful pull on me that I have reread it and plan to return to it often. There are visceral riches here--implied not stated--that must be processed upward, from the gut to the heart and then the mind. Montalembert offers no simplistic guide or advice, just how he faced adversity: with the soul of a poet-painter who has been robbed of sight.
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