This was another lend from Phil. He was a big Berger fan, but also a particularly picky reader. Even his enduring favourites like Berger could find themselves cast out if they dropped below the standard he expected, yet he said he was overwhelmed by this collection of short stories. How could I not read it?
I did and here’s what I thought:
PHOTOCOPIES, John Berger
(finished reading on 10/11/2009)
These short stories are vignettes, ‘photocopies’ of people Berger knew and of his memories and experiences. He really is brilliant at capturing these moments and in doing so manages to teach the reader something about themselves and their emotions, also about beauty. Above all, beauty and truth.
To say that he describes well, or his descriptions are well observed in no way comes close to summarising how he uses language to convey not only a ‘thing’ but the entire experience of that thing at that time (but also out of time) in that place. Here’s one of my favourites:
‘Marcel’s hands were scoured, fissured, with swollen joints, and very warm. Calloused and at the same time sensitive. They were like certain old words that are today going out of use.’
(from ‘A Bunch of Flowers in a Glass’)
Reading that back, I think I was also overwhelmed! Not sure what the ‘thing’ was exactly, but I was obviously moved.