One of the less known works of Joseph Conrad is the novella, The End of the Tether , published in 1902. It depicts the struggle of an English ship captain to continue navigating the coastal waterways of the Malay Archipelago despite his increasing blindness. The conflict is between different responsibilities: the old captain’s wish to provide for his only daughter and his sense of honor as a ship’s captain. And like most of Conrad’s stories, it all comes out badly.
Conrad, who was an acute observer, describes a time when blindness was met fatalistically, even among Europeans, since the options for treatment, even cataract surgery, were chancy at best.
Submitted by Ron Fishman, from the Cogan Ophthalmic History Society.