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The protagonist of All The Light We Cannot See stands up for and fends for herself, survives a killer despite being blind.
Can we see all the lights around us? Can we feel everything around us? Can we listen to the silence around us? Can we speak without the fear of death/criticism about incidents happening around us? I have posed some very easy questions except the last one where I have mentioned death.
We all have witnessed death, didn’t we? My father had breathed his last in front of me and I could do nothing. I can see, feel, listen but I am still scared. Death scares me. But I am not dying. I am perfectly alright, my medico says so. But I feel death, I can smell death the same way Marie could sense it sans the fear. Getting scared is me. Not that young blind woman who engulfs herself in positivity in spite of knowing that she can get killed anytime.
*Major Spoilers Alert – so if you haven’t watched the mini-series, first do that*
When I started watching the Netflix series “All The Light We Cannot See” I was initially frustrated. It’s again upon war and that blind girl with a loving, doting father. But no, the movie inspired me, I couldn’t get off the hooks. It haunted me when I slept. I really cannot even fathom the fact that Anthony Doerr, the American author (in case you aren’t aware of) would take ten years to write a book on a blind girl surviving the dreadful World War II. Kudos to his research and perseverance.
“Hail Hitler” echoed throughout the series. Marie the blind child of a loving single father who worked for a museum had in her amazing touch, smell and listening sense. Her father a feminist man never discrimated this child of his even when those German’s labelled her as a poor girl living on mercy. They called her “Unfortunate” when her father growled that this daughter of his had in her the power greater than many other individual. The plot revolves around Marie who had been caught in the war when the Nazi Germans attacked France in 1940. The father and daughter duo flees to the coastal town of Saint Paulo and takes refuge in her great uncle’s Etienne’s place. Marie’s father Daniel had some other agenda in his mind. He is the custodian of a gem “Sea of Flames” a cursed stone which is fabled of making someone immortal. And thus the hungry Nazi cop Lars Eidinger starts a witch hunt for the blind girl.
Those days radio broadcast was an offence punishable to death but young Marie defies the norms and continues her broadcast at the frequency 13.10Hz. Make no mistake please. I am not reviewing the movie. You may read the book or you can watch the series streaming on Netflix. What I want to project is the tough fight this blind woman raises against these Nazi’s. She lived in the dilapidated house of Great uncle Etienne alone.
Each night she broadcasted at the same frequency with the hope that one day she will be united with her father. We witness in the series fighter planes dropping shells, bombarding, Marie’s house getting reduced to shards. She is left without food and need to fend for herself. She navigates the streets based on the town model which her father a master carpenter had made for her. With no friends, no relatives either she stands tall not for once losing the hope that she will meet her father one day.
As the story proceeds Marie comes to know her father had been brutally tortured and murdered by Eidinger. With Etienne gone fighting the Nazis (He had been a veteran soldier during World War I and still get flashbacks of the poisonous gas attacks which killed thousands of soldiers. Since then he had turned a recluse only to be encouraged by Marie to step out and resist), her father dead, no food, no water, no shelter the girl still doesn’t crumble.
A shout out for those women with such courage. Be like Marie. You may have slipped but you aren’t broken. We are not fighting in a world war (unless we count Gaza) but are fighting against patriarchy. Do not allow anybody to talk non sense about you. You are what you are. We don’t need validations from callous men same like Marie who fights Eidinger with a pistol which Etienne had taught her how to use. She kills the monster Eidinger who was her father’s murderer, a cruel cop, a narcissist, an anarchist (I am out of adjectives now). She had only one bullet left in her pistol when she was captured and she said with pride that everyone can fire from a gun but not everyone can listen with that apt which she possessed in her. She finishes off the greedy Nazi with that one bullet. “Hail Hitler”, crumbles down as the American troops come to rescue. Marie is free now.
Learn to fight your battles ladies. If you won’t, nobody else will do that for you. I was brought up by a feminist father just like Daniel and my gratitude to him would not end till my last breath. I have spoken very harshly about men in a fit of anger. We shouldn’t be doing that. Hatred builds hatred. Marie found her love in an orphan Werner Pfenning who almost died of torture. Men like Etinenne saved him.
Pfenning came to rescue Marie which of course Marie did herself and said she had lovely eyes and will surely come back again for her. He convinces her to carry on the broadcast at the same frequency just like me asking people to remain in same frequency. Please end all wars. Please.
I regret the fact that I am sounding like a preacher but that is what I am. I cannot pretend. And do you want to know what happened to the “Sea of Flames”. The curse was drowned by the waves where it belonged. A sincere note of thanks to Anthony Doerr for the masterpiece. I hope I have judged the protagonist well, sir.
Rimli Bhattacharya is a First class gold medalist in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of Technology, an MBA in supply chain management and is engaged with a corporate sector. Her essay in the anthology “Book read more...
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