Tag Archives: John Berger

Book Review: The Sense of Sight by John Berger

Title: The Sense of Sight
Author: John Berger
Publisher: Vintage USA
ISBN: 978-0-679-73722-3
Genre: Non-Fiction, Art Criticism
Pages: 300
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

When John Berger writes something and you read it, it is nothing but poetry in prose and sometimes even his non-fiction woks stand out even more so. I was introduced to John Berger by chance and thank god for that “by chance” moment or else I would have never known the beauty of his works and he would never have become an integral writer in my life.

“The Sense of Sight” is a collection of essays by him – on the visual aspects of our world. The way we see things, perceive them and ultimately judge what we see. John Berger traces what vision means to us and its importance to see things differently, from paintings to rivers to dreams being a vision and how that amalgamates with the world surrounding us.

With art criticism in tow, he speaks of other things as well – politics, love, food, class, travel and immigration, dreaming, passion, art as an activity, feasts, Van Gogh’s compulsion to bring his canvas and reality together to what two self-portraits of an unrivalled artist speak of art.

Berger writes with fervor and brilliance. Art in his words become something else altogether. There are stories hidden in these essays and the reader only has to look for them and that is good for a reader. This book bridges the gap between seeing and the spoken. The writing is intense and just there for the reader to assimilate. Berger has a neutral view to art and everything else under the sun, and that is why one can relate to what he writes. His range is vast and that helps in the book not getting monotonous or lame at any point of time.

The Sense of Sight may not be a book for everyone however if you are interested about art and life, then maybe you should pick it up.

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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.

Currently Reading


I was introduced to John Berger so to speak by my friend N and since then I have not looked back. Thank you N for introducing me to this marvellous writer. So yesterday, while we had gone to see “The Caine Mutiny Court Martial” at Prithvi Theatre, I chanced upon a nice cheap Indian edition of  ” From A to X: A Story in Letters” by John Berger and could not stop myself from purchasing it. So here I am currently reading it and it is beautifully written. Can’t wait to review it.