The Blind Man Washes in the Pool of Siloam - James
Jorge Luis Borges, when walking with guides through Jerusalem in the early
1970s, said he had never seen a city of such clean searing light. He tapped his
wooden cane on the cobbles and the sides of the buildings to figure out how old
the stones might be.
The stones, he said, were pink as flesh.
He liked walking in the Palestinian neighborhoods, around the souks where as a
blind storyteller he was treated with particular reverence. There had always
been a tradition of the blind among Arabs. The imam in the marketplace. Abdullah
ibn Umm Maktum. Al-Ma’arri. Those who were basir, sighted in the heart and mind.
Their ways of seeing, their ways of telling.
Crowds of young men followed Borges, hands clasped behind their backs, waiting
for a chance to talk to the famous Argentinian writer, the rawi. He wore a grey
suit jacket, shirt and tie, even in the warm weather. He had been given a red
fez as a welcome present. He wore the hat unabashedly.
When he stopped, the crowd stopped with him. He enjoyed the sound of the
alleyways, the flitter of laundry, the swoop of pigeons, the remnants of ghosts.
In particular he liked the trinket shops in the Old City where he could pick
small charms from the trays, attempt histories from the feel of them alone.
Borges sat drinking coffee in the small shops, amid the smoke and the bubbling
water pipes, listening to ancient stories of larks and elephants, of streets
that turned endlessly, of pillars that contained every sound in the universe, of
flying steeds, of mythical marketplaces where the only things for sale were
handwritten poems that scrolled out infinitely.
Two of the ZAKA came back on their scooters the next morning to pick up a single
eyeball that had been missed.
The eyeball was noticed by an elderly man, Moti Richler, who, at dawn, looked
down from his upstairs apartment on Ben Yehuda Street and saw the piece of
severed flesh lying on top of the tall blue awning of the Atara café.
A long string of optic nerve was still attached to the pupil.
The workings of the human eye are still considered by scientists to be as
profoundly mysterious as the intricacies of migratory flight.
With age-related macular degeneration, a patient develops a central blind spot
and can generally only see objects on the periphery. Everything at the center of
vision appears dark. The patient sees edges: everything else becomes a fuzzy
circle. If looking at a dartboard, all that might be seen is its rim.
To combat this, the surgeon removes the natural lens and implants a tiny metal
telescope in one eye. The surgery does not repair the macula, but magnifies the
patient’s vision. The blind spot might be reduced from the size of a person’s
face to the size of his or her mouth, or maybe even to an area as small as a
The operation—which was pioneered in New York and perfected in Tel Aviv—only
takes a couple of hours, but afterwards requires a new way of seeing. The
patient has to learn to gaze through the tiny implanted telescope and at the
same time scan the periphery with the other eye. One eye looks directly forward,
magnifying things up to three times their usual size, while the other searches
sideways. In the brain the two sets of visual information are combined into a
Sometimes it takes the patient months, or even years, to properly retrain the
At the time of the bombing, Moti Richler was in his second month of recovery. He
turned from the window and told his wife, Alona, that he wasn’t sure, but he had
been looking down on the scene of yesterday’s bombing and thought he saw—through
his implanted telescope—something odd lying on the awning below.
It looked to Moti like a tiny old-fashioned motorcycle lamp with wires dangling.
One of the earliest texts on the eye—its structure, its diseases, its
treatments—Ten Treatises on Ophthalmology, was written in the ninth century by
the Arab physician Hunayn ibn Ishaq.
The individual components of the eye, he wrote, all have their own nature and
they are arranged so that they are in cosmological harmony, reflecting, in turn,
the mind of God.
Chromesthesia is a perceptual phenomenon in which sounds automatically evoke the
experience of a color. For those with the condition, music is seen as much as it
is heard. A high-pitched sound suggests brightness. A low-pitched sound suggests
something of a darker tone.
The first recorded instance of chromesthesia comes from the English philosopher
John Locke, who, in his
An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding, wrote about a
blind man. When asked what the color scarlet was, the blind man replied that it
was akin to the sound of a trumpet.
In 1882 a British foundation, the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, set up an
eye hospital overlooking the valley, serving Muslims, Jews and Christians. It
was thought to be healing for the patient that his first sight with the bandages
removed would be the Holy City, above what were known as the gates of hell.
From the rim of the valley they might then see the Pool of Siloam where
archaeologists had uncovered the remains of the Second Temple pool in which
Jesus told a blind man to wash in order to restore his vision.
Sobre a obra | Rammi Elhanan e Bassam Aramin moram perto um do outro – contudo, habitam mundos completamente diferentes. Rami é israelita. Bassam é palestiniano. A matrícula de Rami é amarela. A matrícula de Bassam é verde. Rami demora 15 minutos até à Margem Ocidental. Bassam demora uma hora e meia a fazer o mesmo percurso.
Aqui, a geografia é tudo.
Ambos perderam as suas filhas. Smadar, filha de Rami, de 13 anos, foi morta por um bombista suicida. Abir, filha de Bassam, de 10, foi atingida por um membro da polícia fronteiriça, junto à escola. Trazia um doce no bolso que ainda não tinha tido tempo de comer.
Rami e Bassam tornam-se melhores amigos.
Colum McCann atravessa séculos e continentes, entrelaçando tempo, arte, história, natureza e política numa tapeçaria de amizade, amor, perda e pertença. Este é um livro para todos os que se interessam pela história conturbada deste cantinho do mundo e que ainda conseguem apreciar a poesia inerente à vida humana, que desponta mesmo nas piores circunstâncias.
APEIROGON, finalista do Prémio Booker de 2020, é o sétimo romance do muito premiado autor irlandês Colum McCann.
by Colum McCann
Maria José Alegre