Until now I’ve thought of “Les Misérables” as a musical I’ve never seen and bad film, but now as I read it I’m learning that it is a remarkable book and that Victor Hugo was one of the world’s greatest writers. (Actually I knew this because I read “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” 30 years ago.) Two million people attended his funeral.
He has a great capacity for surprise and for making you think something you’ve never thought before. I’m used to the idea that the blind may have special musical talents and that their other sensory organs may be enhanced, but here Hugo describes how blindness can lead you to exquisite happiness,
“We may remark in passing that to be blind and beloved may, in this world where nothing is perfect, be among the most strangely exquisite forms of happiness. To have a wife, daughter, or sister continually at call, a devoted being who is there because we have need of her and because she cannot live without us; to be able to measure her affection by the constancy of her presence and reflect, ‘If she gives me all her time it is because I have all her heart’; to see the thought in default of the face, weigh fidelity in exclusion of the world, hear the rustle of a dress as though it were the rustling of wings, the comings and goings, the everyday speech, the snatch of song; to be conscious every minute of our own attraction, feeling the more powerful for our weakness, becoming in obscurity and through obscurity the star around which an angel gravitates – there are few felicities to equal this. The supreme happiness in life is the assurance of being loved; of being loved for oneself, even in spite of oneself; and this assurance the blind man possesses. In his affliction, to be served is to be caressed. Does he lack anything? No. Possessing love he is not deprived of light. A love, moreover, that is wholly pure. There can be no blindness where there is this certainty. Soul gropes for soul and finds it. And the found and proven soul is a woman. A hand sustains you, and it is hers; lips touch your forehead and they are her lips; the breathing at your side is her breath. To possess her every feeling from devotion to pity, to be never left in solitude, to have the support of that gentle frailty, that slender, unbreakable reed, to feel the touch of Providence in her hands and be able to clasp it in your arms, a palpable God – what happiness can be greater? The heart, that secret, celestial flower, mysteriously blossoms, and one would not exchange one’s darkness for all light. The angel spirit is there, always there; if she moves away it is to return, she fades like a dream to reappear like reality. We feel the approaching warmth, and, with its coming, serenity, our gaiety and ecstasy overflow; we are radiant in our darkness. There are the countless small cares, those trifles that become huge in our void. The tenderest tones of the feminine voice are used for our comfort and replace the vanished world; they are a spiritual caress; seeing nothing we feel ourselves adored. It is a paradise in shadow.”