Blindfold Games Critical Essays

Alan Ross


(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Ross’s rite-of-passage account is in many ways novelistic in its depiction of a young hero who is torn away from an exotic beloved place and brought to another, quite alien land, where he learns to cope with bewildering customs and unfamiliar surroundings. In his new home, he battles self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy, overcoming both, then goes on to success in school, sports, and—the ultimate test—war.

His own hero, Ross envisions himself as a person who, though taking part in the grand, collective events of his day, is essentially a loner, an observer taking notes on the parade of life which passes him. For all of his courage, he is more often a man acted upon by events than one who shapes them.

Blindfold Games, Ross’s exploration of how he became the person he is today, is in most ways within the bounds of traditional autobiographical practice. Nevertheless, the subtleties of his verse allow the reader to gain a three-dimensional look at his life’s significant events in a way that a standard prose work cannot provide.

One of the book’s major themes is the universal experience of leaving home, an experience made especially poignant in Ross’s case by the abruptness with which he was thrust into the alien world of Cornwall—a world that differed in every imaginable way from that of Calcutta. While many people are able to return to their childhood homes and, to a degree at least, relive their early years, Ross could not do this, for India—after 1948—was no longer a British colony and therefore had as little as possible to do with former colonials.

Indeed, the predominant sensation to be gained from a reading of Blindfold Games is one of loss and its attendant feeling of disconnection, of important things left unfinished, of life losing its earlier sense of promise and intensity. Many of Ross’s poems reflect that loss of place and mission, but none more than “Stateless Persons,” in which he describes...

(The entire section is 813 words.)