John Berger’s Life Between Aesthetics and Politics

Bruce Robbins at The Nation:

By the middle of the ’70s, Berger was publicly triumphant. Yet it was at this very moment that he chose to retreat from public life and move to a mountain village above Geneva. Sperling does not say—perhaps no one knows—how much that move owed to the breakup of his marriage to Bostock and his new relationship with Bancroft. (Sperling is frustratingly tight-lipped about Berger’s romantic life.) But we do learn a lot about his new existence. “Many of his older neighbors continued to live by agrarian methods more or less unbroken for centuries,” Sperling tells us, and “Berger started to work alongside them. They became his teachers.” Recalling these years, Berger observed, “It was like my university. I learnt to tap a scythe, and I learnt a whole constellation of sense and value about life.” Sperling lists the activities Berger participated in—ones involving hay, cows, trees, weeds, apples, and plenty of manure—and notes that “Berger found in the working life of Quincy not only a home but an anchor: a community.”

more here.