Reader, perhaps you would agree, that the he affair between the Magistrate and the blind girl was interesting to say the least. While reading it I could nott help feel that there was something in the way of their intimacy; yes, life experiences, cultures, language, forms of communicating, etc. all contribute, but after reviewing my markups in the book(specifically their interactions) I feel that Coetzee avoids a cheesy love (perhaps sickening) story (so far) unfolding under the barrier that they have the truth laying between them; because of this, the girl becomes a metaphor of truth with the Magistrate failing to grasp her. To clarify, I don’t mean Truth, I mean his understanding of the reality around him.
The reality that the Empire is creating pain is unsettling to the Magistrate because he “…asked for no more than a quiet life in quiet times” (8). To deal with the reality of what the Empire does, he sleeps; although, the sleep seems to be a subconscious act resulting from his inability to face the malice that occurs, that he feels in some way he was a part of. He says, “I feel old and tired, I want to sleep. I sleep whenever I can nowadays and , when I wake up, wake reluctantly. Sleep is no longer a healing bath…but an oblivion, a nightly brush with annihilation” (20). Sleep thus becomes a defense mechanism to deal with the world, but his “liberty to sleep” is dependent on silence, something reminiscent of his old quite life. (21)
The girl interrupts his routine-led life. When the girl comes into his life he begins a pattern of drifting off to sleep. This happens after he interacts with her in some way like washing her feet (28), her legs(29), or her entire body (30). Each action then becomes his attempt to be in touch with the truth of what life on the frontier really is like; his interactions with her take on a quasi-religious nature at times shown as he would, “…wake an hour or two later dizzy, confused, thirsty” (30). His attempts to truly see reality is disorienting, but it also shows that truth is elusive and overwhelming. His will is set on knowing everything about her though; he says, “…until the marks on this girl’s body are deciphered and understood I cannot let go of her” (31). But his will becomes split between knowing and not knowing, described as his desire of “wanting and not wanting her” (31). The Magistrate wants to know everything as he already knows too much (21), but like a witness of a murder scene, he wonders if it is better to leave things alone; but the truth is always there, always next to him while he sleeps (literally). He then comes to find that the truth is an inconvenient truth, well, more like an ugly one. (46) And he tries to examine what his role is in it but to no avail; he says, “What this woman beside me is doing in my life I cannot comprehend” (46). If an epiphany can be seen, it comes in the form of a dream when he says her face unscarred, while he sleeps away from reality, he sees the truth in a new light claiming, “ So this is what it is to see” (52). Granted, he does not wake up and spring into action, but that seems to be more a form of style, in congruence with the pacing of the book. Afterwards, the girl offers herself to him sexually, but he rejects her—ultimately stating that he denies the truth, although he has found it. (54).
And so, reader, I hope that my point is not too much off its mark. I hope that I’ve shown how the truth is neither easy to accept for Mr. Magistrate, nor any human being at times, and that his failure to fornicate with her is not strictly a sexual matter as much as it is a denial of the reality she encapsulates, a cruel reality, the truth. Veritas liberabit vos.