Braille Monitor                                                 June 2010

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Featured Book from the Jacobus tenBroek Library
The Man in the Dark by John Ferguson. New York: Collier & Son, 1928.

by Ed Morman

In this woodcut two blind students of the Royal Institute for Blind Youth, the Parisian school with which Louis Braille was associated, are depicted operating a printing press. Printing was one of the professions blind people in France were often trained in during the early nineteenth century.From the Editor: With some regularity we spotlight books in the tenBroek Library. Here is librarian Ed Morman's description of a recent acquisition:

No fewer than three different novels and an unrelated movie have this title. The book at hand was originally published in Great Britain and takes place in and around London (with a brief excursion to a remote part of Scotland).

We meet the hero, Alexander Kinloch, in the first sentence of the book, but we do not learn that he is blind until page thirty-five. Indeed none of the other characters whom he encounters for thirty-five pages notice this trait. Only when a woman he has just met is driving him away from a crime scene does this interchange finally occur:

“I’d like you to know this first,” he said. “I never saw the man who was murdered nor the man who—who did the deed, so I could never have been a damaging witness against him.”

“That is quite incredible,” she said coolly. “Impossible unless you were quite blind.”

“Quite impossible,” he agreed, “unless I were quite blind.”

Eventually the reader figures out that Kinloch lost his sight in the First World War, and he had invested his entire veteran’s benefit in a worthless stock. Down on his luck, he stumbles into an unlikely sequence of events under circumstances (dense fog and dark of night) that make it difficult for others to see that he is blind.

Kinloch does not solve the mystery; a detective hired by a tabloid newspaper does. And, although the plot remains terribly convoluted (different chapters relate the story from the point of view of different characters), the solution is pretty simple and appears obscure only because of the way the story is told.

The book is fun to read, nonetheless, and generally provides a fair, non-stereotyped portrayal of a blind man. As a blind man Kinloch is a well-rounded character with good and bad qualities. The trouble is, in order to provide a happy ending, the author felt compelled to have Kinloch regain his sight. In the end Kinloch’s investment also turns out to be valuable and—you guessed it—the woman in the car ends up being in love with him.

This book is available in Braille from the National Library Service (BRA09623).

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