Henry Grunwald – Twilight. Losing Sight, Gaining Insight

Henry Grunwald
Twilight. Losing Sight, Gaining Insight
circa 175.000 battute

L’anziano Henry Grunwald, redattore capo della Time Inc. Publications, racconta in questo libro la sua cecità, improvvisa, inaspettata, senza speranze di guarigione, dai primi sintomi al peggioramento invalidante.
Grunwald ci parla delle sue paure, delle sue speranze, dei suoi problemi pratici: «I was advised to try magnification. Always a hopeless enthusiast for gadgets, I plunged into the realm of visual aids: magni­fiers, magnifiers with built-in lights, reading lamps with lenses attached. I turned them and twisted them, held them close to the page and farther away. There were good days and bad days. A para­graph read was a triumph; a sentence undeciphered was a blow» (p. 29).
Lettore per professione e per passione, osservatore attento del mondo, Grunwald deve affrontare il distacco dalle cose viste, e come qualcuno cui rimangano pochi giorni di vita inizia divorare immagini delle persone amate, delle cose (p. 26). La situazione è drammatica, ma l’autore non lascia mai trasparire disperazione: «One of my children asked me, “Don’t you rail against what happened to you? Don’t you ever demand, ‘Why me?’” I do not ask that question. Why things happen to some people and not to others is the ultimate mystery. Many see it as part of God’s inscrutable plan, and many see it as the absurd randomness oof existence. I would like to bellieve in the first version, but I am more persuaded by the second. Either way, my own attitude is acceptance without resignation» (p. 127). Le preoccupazioni sembrano essere più per la sofferenza che dovrà subire la sua famiglia.
Grunwald in verità non dedica grandissimo spazio alla propria malattia, piuttosto rende partecipe il lettore delle informazioni medico scientifiche che ha potuto reperire[1], con una sorta di candore ci\ parla del vedere[2], dei suoi primi ricordi visivi (pp. 45 ss.), del volto femminile: «Women’s faces are an endless delight – and mystery. I find it extremely difficult to describe them, perhaps more difficult than describing anything else. One can follow the shape of a mouth, the width and angle of a nose, the color and position of eyes, but such details do not add up to a whole. The total effect, the spirit, remains elusive» (pp. 64-65).
Da lettore diventa ascoltatore, con tutti i problemi che ciò comporta: «Being read to at length is still strange; I have not had the experience since childhood. It often makes me feel helpless and passive. Occasionally, my mind wanders. One regular reader tests me for attention by slipping some out-rageous statement into the text to see if I will react. I sometimes want to linger over certain passages and skip others, but it takes a very special reader to be so adaptable. Fortunately, Louise is» (p. 79).
Insomma, un viaggio che sembra lunghissimo e che in realtà è contenuto in poco più di centoventi pagine di piccolo formato, un piccolo gioiello di bravura letteraria, un testo coinvolgente e interessan­te.

Dalla medicina[3] al legame degli occhi con la religione, il mito, la leggenda, anche se «I did not believe that my macular degeneration was punishment for having seen forbidden things or that it brought me any special wisdom» (p. 39).
Un passare dal generale al particolare, dai temi più vasti alle preoccupazioni più essenziali, alle speranze quotidiane: «I sometimes catch myself expecting a cure, although expecting is probably too strong a word. It is more an instinct, a mental habit that makes one believe that somehow things will get better. There is always the lingering hope for some dramatic discovery. We “macular degenerates” rarely meet witout asking one another, “Heard anything new?”» (p. 109).
«But I had to accept the fact that , short of some extraordinary breakthrough, nothing can replace the infinitely intricate web of cells in the eye once those cells are destroyed (p. 33).
Non posso che raccomandare la pubblicazione di questo volumetto. Gli unici possibili dubbi ri­guarda­no proprio l’argomento, che non è esattamente qualcosa su cui la gente probabilmente ha molta voglia di leggere, almeno in forma di autobiografia. Sacks, per esempio, parla di cose ben peg­giori, ma sono cose accadute ad altri, non a lui, e vengono presentate in maniera molto patinata. Inoltre, c’è un autocompiacimento diffuso e alla fine esplicito – probabilmente giustificato – per come negli Stati Uniti vengono gestiti gli handicap visivi – c’è insomma un’intonazione che, anche se non saprei dirne il perché con precisione, mi lascia perplesso. Infine, forse bisognerebbe chiedere un parere a un non vedente italiano.


Andrea Antonini

(4 febbraio 2000)

[1]
«Scientists also began to learn more about the function of the eye not merely as a camera but as a portal of light for the entire body. The deprivation of light influences metabolic and hormonal processes such as sugar balance, water balance, blood count, and sexual function» (p. 19).

[2]
«There is always the question of the role played by reputation. Prejudgment and bias can determine what one sees, not only in a museum but in life. It is better to know that one is looking at a great master’s picture, or it is better to experiment the picture without foreknowledge? […] But sooner or later, information is indispensable. One’s eye can appreciate only part of the Judgement of Paris without one’s knowing that it is Paris who is handing the apple to Venus, and ultimately receiving Helen of Troy as a reward, thereby starting the Trojan War. […] Often choices must be made – for instance, between trying to look at everything or allowing oneself to be dazzled by one work of art until it becomes a part of one’s soul» (pp. 58-59).

[3]
«Elsewhere, including at the Harkness Eye Institute at Columbia-Presbyterian, researchers are hoping to transplant healthy cells of the retina to replace damaged ones. Unfortunately, retina transplants are infinitely more complex than cornea transplants. “The good news,” Dr. Guyer says, “is that we are now able to surgically perform retinal transplantation and there does not seem to be rejection by the eye of this foreign material. The bad news is that we still have no way to connect the approximatley 1.2 million fibers from the retina to the brain.” In order to get uselful vision, those 1.2 million fibers must be attached from eye to brain in exact order. “It’s a nightmare with all the spaghetti there,” says Guyer. “But it’s no longer science fiction”» (p. 112).