THE genius English novelist, Herbert Wells, in 1904 wrote the wonderful short story ‘In the Land of the Blind’. The subject is related to mountaineer Nuñez, who with his friends try to conquer the summit of one of the mountains in Ecuador.
One night he slips and falls down the far side of the mountain. At the end of his descent, down a snow-slope in the mountain’s shadow, he finds a valley, cut off from the rest of the world on all sides by steep precipices.
The settlers of the valley suffered from a mysterious eye disease that resulted in genetic blindness which moved from one generation to another. Nuñez is surprised that the valley houses are colorful and exotic, with no windows. He screamed and cried out for help and some people gathered around him but they did not look towards him, and here he discovered that they were all blind.
Remembering the saying ‘The one-eyed is a king in the land of the blind’, he decided to exploit them until his departure from the valley, and quickly found out that they were too difficult to control. He also discovered it was not easy to convince them of what they do not want to be convinced of, for example birds for them were angels, and time is cold and warm, they sleep in the cold and work in the warm, and use their four senses wonderfully.
They do not know what sight means, and when he challenged them that he sees things happening in front of their homes which they do not see, they asked him to describe what is behind the walls of their homes and he failed, so they knew that he was blabbering and was talking nonsense.
When he felt tired and despaired, he tried to escape and they ran after him and found him by sniffing the air around him, even when he managed to escape one day, he returned to them because of hunger and desperate to find a way out. After a while he fell in love with the daughter of the man who he works for, although she was beautiful for her people she was ugly according to their standards because her face was sharp and cross, and her eyelashes were long, however her father turned down his request to marry her because he was obsessed and imagined things which did not exist.
When the girl insisted, the father agreed to put the issue in front of the elders of the village who agreed to the marriage on condition the eyes of Nuñez are ‘plucked’ out because those cavities in his head destroyed his brain.
Nuñez strongly rejected the condition, but the girl’s pleas and love made him agree in the end, since his destiny was to live among them forever. The blindness became a condition for the consent of others and acceptance of him.
The story ends with Nuñez changing his mind after seeing that he loses a lot if he does not agree to lose his sight.
In 1939 the author added a lot to the story and adjusted its end, but its projections remain a clear reality in many of our situations.
How many sane people have given up all that they believe in, after discovering and adhering to their views, which is believed to be correct, will not protect them from the domination of some officials when it comes to promotions and bonuses?
By Ahmad Al-Sarraf
To be continued