john berger’s monument

Berger2Annie Julia Wyman at n+1:

VERY EARLY IN PORTRAITS, in a remarkable essay on Courbet, Berger writes “the only justification for criticism is that it allows us to see more clearly” (it makes sense that Berger’s take on Courbet would be remarkable, since both were preoccupied with painting as a faithful transcript of experience, though then again there is no artist with whom Berger did not share something or from whom he did not learn anything—a mark of the high value he placed on intellectual and artistic receptivity). Criticism is only one level of thinking; Berger’s reviews would offer a desperately incomplete representation of his total production, which is one reason why, in Portraits, Overton selects from across Berger’s oeuvre: the fiction contains art writing; the poetry contains art writing, as do the letters and the eulogies for dead friends written to long-dead artists.

The same catholic editorial procedure holds for Landscapes, with a slight modification. Overton specifies in his introduction that the book intends to survey the theoretical territory of Berger’s work on art, then offer examples of the territory described. The book’s first half is thus headed “Redrawing the Maps,” the second “Terrain”; the first contains odes to Gabriel García Márquez and to James Joyce. It also contains shorter pieces on Fredric Antal, Max Raphael, and Walter Benjamin: Marxist humanists like Berger, emigrants like Berger (though not, unlike Berger, emigrants by choice).

more here.