And There Was Light by Jacques Lusseyran
And There Was Light is the autobiography of Jacques Lusseyran. It is at once the first-hand telling of the underground French Resistance, imprisonment and torture by the Nazis, and the brilliant story of a man strengthened by his greatest weakness.
Jacques was born in Paris in 1924. Resulting from an accident at the age of eight he had both his eyes surgically removed. Here we are introduced to his love of life, his will to see through blindness, and the light which filled his mind with truth. He proceeded through a normal school, and at sixteen, when World War Two had broken out, he started a resistance movement against it, which later joined with the rapidly-spreading underground Defense de la France.
Jacques saw light in everything. His lack of eyes was replaced with a mental capacity to see actual light inside his head. It would appear in different amounts depending on what he was trying to comprehend. He could tell the personalities as well as the current mood of anyone he met, but most of all he could detect all honesty. The light represented truth-in people before him, the government, circumstances and situations he encountered, even the future. It was his blindness that brought these talents out. He was extremely in tune with his remaining senses, although he was also obviously born with extra abilities.
The book is lavishly filled with descriptions so seemingly visual that his blindness was easy to forget. His writing was detailed, and the first half of the book especially rambled; it was a little long and over-worded, though agreeable for the prose alone. But once he stops simply musing his early impressions of blindness and begins to really mix emotion with a more suspenseful story, it goes from the autobiography of an observant, blind man, to that of a remarkable hero.
At twenty, he was finally caught by the Gestapo, betrayed by the one man in whom Jacques had not foreseen dishonesty. He was thrown in prison for six months before being brought to Buchenwald. Insisting his profession was translating French, German and Russian, the last of which he knew not a word, he assigned himself to interpreting and distributing news broadcasts among the prisoners. He survived in the concentration camp for one whole year, until the war was ended and the people set free.
Never does the story turn depressing, despite the circumstances of unimaginable suffering and horror. Heavy, terrifying, but uplifting; I found it supremely inspiring. He lived in Hell and fed off hope. On the last page he tells us that light and joy come from inside a person, not without, and he is living proof of this.Posted in books