According to my eye specialist we all have a blind spot. Certainly, this is true where I’m concerned. Every time I have to have a field test the same small patch in my left eye comes up completely black. I can’t see a thing there at all. It’s got to the point now that when someone new carries out the test I tell them where the blind spot is going to be before we start. It’s a good way of checking the accuracy of the equipment.
What’s really interesting about this is that on an every day basis I am completely unaware that I can’t see through that part of my eye. I suppose the rest of vision compensates for it and the brain fills in the bit that’s missing. The same is true, I think, where our literary blind spots are concerned. Until someone or something points them out to us, we are blissfully ignorant of their existence.
And all this is a way of leading up to a humiliating abasement of myself in the face of my own literary blind spot. Why didn’t someone point out to me that Pushkin’s Boris Godunov was a play and not the novel that I thought it was? You were all simply being too polite to rub my nose in my own ignorance, weren’t you? Yes, I thought so. Well, you can all stop pretending you didn’t realise how stupid I was being because I discovered that for myself this morning when I decided that I ought to read the original and trolled over to Amazon to see if I could get a copy. No problem at all. Lots and lots of translations of Pushkin’s play are available. Which one would I like? I bow my head in shame.
Of course, this probably goes someway to explain why I thought Adrian Mitchell had done a reasonable job of transposing one narrative form into another and really rather enjoyed the current RSC production of his version of the history. He wasn’t creating a different form at all. Now I’m simply left wondering if the original Pushkin had the same faults that I did think were apparent in what I saw yesterday. Overall, I suspect not.
The major element of the current production that left me thinking that this was a transposition from prose to drama was the amount of back story that it was necessary to fill in. Interestingly, given the location, Mitchell uses the same technique Shakespeare so often employed. A couple of characters come on at the beginning and tell each other all the history that they already know just so that the audience can know it as well. Think the opening scene of Antony and Cleopatra. I would imagine that Pushkin wouldn’t have felt the need to do this because his audience would already be aware of Godunov’s backstory. It would have been a bit like Shakespeare starting his play Henry VIII with the information that the King had had six wives. Given that many of them would have lived through the consequences, the Globe audience probably didn’t need that rubbing in, thank you.
Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed the production, although I think I will get hold of a copy of the original just to see whether Pushkin does fill in the background of how Godunov came to the throne. The only other disappointment was the number of empty seats. It used to be rare that you could get a ticket for the RSC if you didn’t book very early on, but this winter that hasn’t been the case. I suspect the current financial situation is beginning to bite.
But, back to blind spots. The problem is, of course, that with this sort of blind spot you don’t know you’ve got it until you haven’t got it any longer. Convoluted, I know, but true. There is, however, another type of literary blind spot altogether: the literary blind spot that prevents you from understanding why everyone in the universe except you thinks that a particular book is a work of genius. While the rest of the world raves about a particular novel, play or collection of poems, you are left at best wondering what all the fuss is about and at worst convinced that the collective critical faculties of the reading community have taken a day off work. Most of you know what falls into my blind spot. Try as I might, I simply cannot find the merit of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. I know this marks me out as some sort of literary barbarian, but that’s how it is, I’m afraid. I also have to admit to feeling the same way about pretty much everything Thomas Hardy ever wrote. If you want to remove me from your list of blogs you follow right this minute, I will understand.
But, what about you? What about your blind spots? I’m willing to wager that if you’re honest you’ve all got at least one, but are you willing to admit to them?
Come on, I’ve opened myself up to humiliating abasement this afternoon. Are you brave enough to join me?