Gotta love a guy who can start a review with an extended quote from Wordsworth:
One of the most mysterious and disconcerting episodes in The Prelude concerns Wordsworth’s encounter in London with a blind beggar “who, with upright face,/Stood, propped against a wall, upon his chest/Wearing a written paper, to explain/His story, whence he came, and who he was”. The sight, the poet tells us, sent his mind spinning, “As with the might of waters”, for it seemed an “apt type . . . of the utmost we can know,/Both of ourselves and of the universe”. Can this be true? Is the blind beggar, his name written on his chest but unable to read it, an emblem of ourselves?
The idea is shocking to most of us, who believe that we are transparent to ourselves and that the world is, to a certain extent, open to our understanding.
Diego Marani’s remarkable novel sets out to explore these questions . . .
Also read his essay on Thomas Bernhard in the same periodical.