John Berger is brilliant and infuriating: Bolshevik, poet, monk. The man who gave his Booker Prize money (for G) to the Black Panthers and radicalised a whole generation of art history students through the amazing Ways of Seeing has been a constant witness for the poor and marginalised, especially for peasants and migrants.
Never a Stalinist – always too close to the powerless – he avoided the ideological quagmire the left of his generation got stuck in. Lots of people will hate his LRB piece on Palestine (A Moment in Ramallah, London Review of Books, 24 July – doesn’t appear to be online yet) – not least for its classic Berger imagery – soaring and leaden, artful and artless, all at once – like I said: infuriating. But, if you know his work, it’s perfectly consistent with his unwavering identification with the dispossessed. Here’s some of that infuriating imagery:
“When it came to saying goodbye, the aunt held my hand, and in her eyes, there was the same special attention to the moment. If two people are laying a tablecloth on a table, they glance at one another to check the placing of the cloth. Imagine the table is the world and the cloth the lives of those we have to save. Such was the expression.”