Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation
New interface
Book section

Perception compromise, perspicacité perdue : nécessité de la fiction dans The Insult, de Rupert Thomson

Abstract : Martin Blom, a man who became blind after being shot in the head, is the narrator and paradoxical focalizer of Rupert Thomson's 1996 novel The Insult. As the victim of a crime he becomes the main person of interest in a police inquiry; later in the novel his lover goes missing and he sets off to find her, thus promoting himself to the rank of detective. The narrative hinges on a disability that challenges Martin's status as a would be inspector, or as a focalizer: in that sense, it works to subvert the metaphorical journey traditionally associated with detective stories. In a classic detective novel the reader progresses from relative blindness to the enlightened viewpoint that finally emerges with the detective's deductions. In the present case, however, the truth which the narrative brings to light has to do with Martin himself: despite a neurological condition that first made him believe that he had recovered, he eventually acknowledges that he is permanently blind. Far from bringing us from darkness to clarity, the character's journey towards lucidity leads us back to irretrievable blindness. The novel presents us with a man who cannot see that he cannot see, thus offering a sceptical reading of a topos in crime fiction: the anxiety raised by our dependence on perception and the imperfect information delivered by our senses. In The Insult, illusion cannot be compensated by reason or understanding: indeed, the protagonist's brain itself is responsible for his hallucinations. Sight is stripped of its epistemological value, and presents itself as a field for power-play. In an approach similar to that of 1984, the narrative inscribes vision in a paranoid system where the seeing subject's entire perceptive life is in the control of an authoritarian agency–the neurologist follows in the steps of Big Brother in ensuring that Martin will feel and do exactly as he is supposed to. Yet destroying perception to preserve his own integrity would not solve Martin's plight: turning his back on the world of sensation would be tantamount to choosing death. The protagonist's main task is to invent a new status for those perceptions that are not true but have come to shape his new life. By revising perception into fiction, by converting what used to be a blind confidence in the senses into a willing suspension of his disbelief, Martin has completed his journey: he has found his way back to the world and to others.
Document type :
Book section
Complete list of metadata

Cited literature [17 references]  Display  Hide  Download
Contributor : Diane Leblond Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Wednesday, September 23, 2020 - 8:02:38 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, October 14, 2020 - 4:14:49 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Thursday, December 3, 2020 - 4:21:17 PM


leblond ppp version auteur HAL...
Files produced by the author(s)


  • HAL Id : hal-02947253, version 1



Diane Leblond. Perception compromise, perspicacité perdue : nécessité de la fiction dans The Insult, de Rupert Thomson. Françoise Buisson, Christelle Lacassain-Lagoin, Florence Marie. Perception, Perspective, Perspicacité : Perception, Perspective and Perspicacity, L'harmattan, pp.225-240, 2014, 9782343042800. ⟨hal-02947253⟩



Record views


Files downloads