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Preface to the English-Language Edition

And that, for me, would have really been something to read. Dec 14, Jee Koh rated it really liked it. It is astonishing to me how consistent John Berger was in over 30 years of art criticism. His judgment of an artist could become more developed and refined, more elaborated, but the underlying sense of the artist's purpose and value remained the same. This consistency of seeing came from a coherent philosophy of art criticism. As Berger puts it in his "Introduction" to Permanent Red, which is also aptly the introductory essay of this Selected Essays edited by Geoff Dyer, the art critic must firs It is astonishing to me how consistent John Berger was in over 30 years of art criticism.

As Berger puts it in his "Introduction" to Permanent Red, which is also aptly the introductory essay of this Selected Essays edited by Geoff Dyer, the art critic must first answer the question: What can art serve here and now? For Berger, the answer that drove his looking was another question: Does this work help or encourage men to know and claim their social rights? In the second half of the twentieth century, the most important historical movements were the fights for national independence, civil rights, gender equality, and peace.

And so the questions that were posed to artworks were those of the times. To the extent that an artwork reminded the viewer of his potentialities, it encouraged him to claim the social rights in his life. Those who claimed a different purpose for art were simply out of step with their times, or as Berger writes, "The hysteria with which many people today deny the present, inevitable social emphasis of art is simply due to the fact that they are denying their time.

They would like to live in a period when they'd be right. The old confidence about social rights is gone, not just about the viability of securing them, but even the desirability of attaining them. We are more ambivalent, I think, about the value of the new nationalisms, for instance, and of the triumph of secularism. The early Berger essays refer to the uneven development of the world, with the confidence that the new and less-developed nations will climb on board the train of Western Enlightenment and espouse its ideals.

A number of later essays, born of visits to Turkey, are less sure of this linear, stageist view of history. The times have changed. We are more concerned with the rights of representation than with the social rights as defined by the West. So the imperative in contemporary art to be inclusive or to admit to its exclusivity, to its necessary subjectivity. It's a dilemma. How can one claim to represent anything except oneself? The problem is most acute in painting, of all the arts, because it is, finally, a single static framed object. It is little wonder that so many artists have migrated to film and installations, to motion and environment, in other words, since the problems of painting seem intractable.

Berger's later essays pay attention to the global power of capital. Everything everywhere is up for buying and selling. The point here, as I see it, is that all the movements for social rights played into the hands of capital. The newly independent nations are now free to buy and sell.

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Women are now potentially equal to men in purchasing power. The poor wants to be rich. Peace is good for business. The essential fight, it seems to me, is against capital, not on behalf of labor, but on behalf of humanity. We need to resist the commodification of everything. To do so, we have to find intellectual resources from anywhere we can find them, even in such unlikely places as John Berger's socialism.

Oct 01, Mark rated it it was amazing Shelves: books-that-changed-everything. Time and time again I find myself moved by Berger's meditations on art. Great art in itself, his writing has the power to reveal the invisible essence of an artist's work--that quality which transforms a painting or a sculpture from just an object into a kind of living being. He has taught me how to be with art, to speak to it and to listen, making meaning together.

Artists I've simply ignored like Degas and Hals become transfigured in his writing and I see their work with new eyes. Other favori Time and time again I find myself moved by Berger's meditations on art. Other favorites of mine like Caravaggio or the mummy portraits of Fayyum are discussed with such astonishing freshness that I can never look at them again without first remembering his words. For those who love art, reading Berger is to relive with each essay the experience of falling in love for the first time. Mar 30, Jude rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: anyone who uses the word "art" in a sentence.

Shelves: reference-formative , art. Dec 16, Gints Dreimanis rated it it was amazing. I have only seen the base of the mountain, yet it is magnificent. To be revisited when I am older and smarter. Jul 12, Catherine rated it really liked it. I only got through the early essays of this book before having to return it, but will check it out again to read some of the later work. Berger is an excellent writer. The earlier newspaper column-style essays are quite digestible, fun to pick up and put down for short intervals.

His commentary on Romanticism and Cubisim in particular were new perspectives for me. Cubism always seemed one-note to me. Berger opened my eyes to its importance in art history and "seeing".

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Insightful art criticism. W I only got through the early essays of this book before having to return it, but will check it out again to read some of the later work. Will have to read the rest for all the other kinds of criticism Berger wrote. Mar 21, Kevin Isgett rated it really liked it. I especially enjoyed the art essays, The one on how portraiture has changed over time was a favorite. A deep thinker, who turned me on to Caravaggio, whose paintings I had never seen till now.

He's a loner, yet he's loyal. Living so long in France, he's also gained more insight into his own British culture Hope to get into his novels. I'm sorry, but it got a bit bored and aborted my read.


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A lot of things that were mentioned in the book did not interest me, but I'm sure he will have entertained those who enjoyed the subjects he discussed at length. Sep 03, Tobias rated it really liked it Shelves: read There's a lot here -- some of it more to my taste than others. But the best parts are utterly fantastic, and the progression of the book over decades, from politically-infused art criticism to pastoral thoughts on mortality, amasses its own kind of weight.


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  4. Nov 20, Elisabeth rated it really liked it. I admire john berger. May 26, Jack rated it it was amazing. JB selectively recaps an artist's biography or process in two to three pages then writes a single surprising and mind-quieting insight you've never heard before. And you're glad. Jun 16, R L Swihart rated it liked it. Kept my attention. Lots of interesting topics. Aug 13, Andy rated it really liked it. Worth it just for the article on shoveling shit out of his compost toilet.

    I've even argued that this essay encapsulates Berger's entire aesthetic. Sep 05, Brigette rated it really liked it. Art and politics -- what a wonderful combo. And nobody writes about it better than John Berger. May 04, Meral rated it it was amazing. This man is wonderful. He changed my life. Apr 22, Sara Willis rated it it was amazing. Buy this book now. Or steal it. Or borrow it. Don't just read it, eat it and let it grow inside you.

    Joseph rated it really liked it Nov 08, Eric rated it it was amazing Nov 25, Anna rated it it was amazing Jun 05, Anthony rated it really liked it Sep 01, Tasnim Mahdy rated it it was amazing Jun 05, Peter rated it it was amazing Jan 04, Douar rated it it was amazing Feb 17, Kate Mary rated it liked it Jan 13, There are no discussion topics on this book yet.

    Readers also enjoyed. About John Berger. John Berger.

    selected essays — Jill Talbot

    John Peter Berger was an English art critic, novelist, painter and author. His novel G. Later he was self exiled to continental Europe, living between the french Alps in summer and the suburbs of Paris in winter. Since then, his production has incre John Peter Berger was an English art critic, novelist, painter and author. Since then, his production has increased considerably, including a variety of genres, from novel to social essay, or poetry.

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    One of the most common themes that appears on his books is the dialectics established between modernity and memory and loss, Another of his most remarkable works has been the trilogy titled Into Their Labours , that includes the books Pig Earth , Once In Europa Lilac And Flag With those books, Berger makes a meditation about the way of the peasant, that changes one poverty for another in the city.

    This theme is also observed in his novel King , but there he focuses more in the rural diaspora and the bitter side of the urban way of life. Books by John Berger.

    Selected Essays

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Hischak, eds. Eliot" Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Oxford University Press Inc. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Edited by Dinah Birch. James D. Hart, ed. Phillip W. CATS musical, film , film.

    Selected Essays on International Arbitration by Michael Hwang S.C.

    The Criterion Faber and Faber T. Eliot Prize T. Eliot Prize Truman State University.