The Country of the Blind by H.G. Wells is a Public Domain short story sent to me by my boyfriend. You can buy it here for a few dollars at Amazon, or read in its entirety on your computer from sites such as www.online-literature.com or www.readbookonline.net, or download it as a PDF or from Project Gutenberg here: http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/11870.
Written in 1904, it is no longer under copyright in the US, which is why it can be downloaded for free. Basically, public domain means that the work is available for use by anyone. It can be reproduced, modified, and even republished without having to ask anyone’s permission or pay anyone royalties.
From Jonathan: Many other novels and short stories actually fall under the public domain. Almost all works published before the early 1900s do, and the public domain is the reason that some companies such as Penguin Classics are able to sell their books so cheaply. Unfortunately, copyright law in the US has become somewhat of an atrocity over the past 80 years, such that almost no published works have fallen under public domain. The maximum length of copyright before this was 28 years. Lawrence Lessig covered this topic extensively in his book Free Culture. Despite the governments increasing control over copyright law, some creators have taken it upon themselves to dictate the terms of their copyright through Creative Commons licensing. For example, sci-fi author Cory Doctorow has released all of his complete novels for free online on the same date as in the stores. He argues that it’s been a major reason for his success.
But to the review:
The Country of the Blind by H.G. Wells begins with Nunez, a mountaineer, falling down a mountain slope. He enters a land where for generations none of the inhabitants have been able to see. To them, sight is a made-up word, a Nunez is a simpleton who speaks nonsense and does not have the hearing capabilities that they do. Thinking that the community should worship him for his added sense, he spends his time trying to describe what he sees. Eventually he gives up, and becomes acquainted with their way of life.
Nunez falls in love with one of the women in the land, but is only allowed to marry her if he agrees to have an operation that will remove his eyes. The village feels that his eyes are a disease that is tricking his brain, and by removing them he can be cured. He decides he must flee, because he loves the beautiful sights of the world too much to lose them.
Wells’ work attempts to show that isolated groups can overcome obstacles, will learn to see themselves as normal, and others as abnormal, and can function just as well just differently. It was an interesting story, which makes you wonder how you would react in Nunez’s situation, and whether sight in a sightless world is a blessing or a curse.