the other john berger

BergerRichard Turney at the Times Literary Supplement:

It is easy to forget just how strange Berger can be: the swimming dog seemingly committing suicide in Corker’s Freedom; the dead horses in G.; Pig Earth’s ladders that link the rotting matter of the forest floor to ethereal butterflies and angels above; the soup shared with the dead in Here is Where We Meet. In my own reading of Berger over many years, certain themes have shown themselves particularly clearly: he has been a consistently inventive writer of himself, playing with the name “John” and its etymological cousins, Janos, Jean, and Jonas. He is an obsessive writer of animals, primarily for what they show us of ourselves; think of the teeming and disturbing bestiary of The Foot of Clive, the rich descriptions of livestock in Pig Earth, in which nothing remains simply itself, (Pepé’s slaughtered pig has lungs reminiscent of “two sprays of pear blossom”), andKing, Berger’s novel of homelessness, in which the narrator may well be a dog.

His was a distinctive vocabulary of symbols that are altered and reconfigured with every iteration, and perhaps find their fullest expressions in G. and Once in Europa, texts which had had me chasing the tail of a series of metonymic connections to find them twisting and coiling back on themselves, and which laced both books with a simultaneous feeling of superabundance and mystery. Most obviously, he worked restlessly between genres and traditions, probing the spaces between various oppositions.

more here.