Tag Archives: Booker Nominated 2008

From A to X: A Story in Letters by John Berger

Alright. So I finally finished reading “From A to X: A Story in Letters” by John Berger and it was nice. It was not an awesome piece of writing or something to write home about, however it felt nice reading parts of it. What is it about? Well, it is about letters literally written from a wife to her husband who is in prison for being a part of a terrorist group for two life sentences. So she sets out writing him letters about the life she is leading, the daily ongoings in their town Suse, who died, who is living, about her work at the pharmacy and above all she keeps reminding him about their love.

It is a sparsely love story though. I wanted to know more about the characters. Their lives, their tales, their emotions, what they go through when a country is at war, when its men are imprisoned – I wanted to know it all and sadly this short book did not give me that insight.

The Lonely A’ida writes to Xavier (hence from A to X). We see Xavier’s notes made at the back of the letters which are of a political subtext and bits and pieces of his affection for his lover. There is so much longing in some of the sentences that I could not help but cry.

“Now I look down at my hands that want to touch you and they seem obsolete because they haven’t touched you for so long.”

“No other man is like you. Everything is made of the same stuff, and everyone is put together differently.”

There is a lot of caring in the book – almost to counter effect the cruelty and indifference of the world. This is the first fiction form that I am reading which is written by Berger. I have only read his essays and “Ways of Seeing” earlier. Berger sees keenly and pens what most writers according to me miss sometimes. For instance, when A’ida speaks of the neighbor, a young woman whose lover was hauled out of bed, taken to the river Zab and shot. Months later the same woman notices someone on television who bears an uncanny resemblance to her dead lover and this sighting more than the actual killing undoes her.

At the end of the day, while I closed the book and went to bed, I thought of A’ida and Xavier. Of how I wanted them to meet. And of how I did not. Because then there would be no magic left.