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The most important thing to say about Berger in intellectual terms is that he is a Marxist. His understanding is rooted in Karl Marx’s analysis of exploitation. Some of his best essays have just been reissued in a collection, Landscapes, and time and again they start with a brilliant sketching of the economic conditions around the ideas or art being examined. But Berger is so important a Marxist because he is perhaps the one who has most thoroughly rid himself of belief in historical progress, a belief that Marx took ready-made from the victorious bourgeoisie who had replaced feudalism with capitalism.

His great novel, G, which when I read it at 23 affected me more than any other fiction I had read, meditates continuously on the relation between history and fiction. It is a brilliant portrait of Europe at the turn of the 20th century as the most civilised of continents prepared to commit suicide in the western trenches. No notion of progress can survive the death of G, the eponymous hero, in 1915 as Italy enters the war. What does remain, however, is desire and this story of a modern Don Giovanni sketches the most complete anatomy of heterosexual masculine desire that I know. (G won the 1973 Booker Prize. At the award ceremony Berger announced that he was giving half the prize money to the Black Panthers, saying that it was “the black movement, with the socialist and revolutionary perspective, that I find myself most in agreement with in this country.”)

full: http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/john-berger-taught-us-to-see
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