Archive for January, 2017

RIP John Berger

I was in bed watching Ethel and Ernest die on Monday night when I heard that John Berger had passed away at the age of 90. Oh, the pain of living in the present world. He was the most humane writer of our times. I’m not sure who my favourite living writer is now. It is sad when that happens. The last time for me was when Muriel Spark died in 2006.

When Berger won the Booker Prize in 1972 for his novel “G“, he (in)famously gave half the prize money to the Black Panther movement (although they were no longer active) in protest at the prize sponsors’ exploitation of workers in the Caribbean. The other half he used to to write a much better book: A Seventh Man – in which, with photographer Jean Mohr, he depicted the lives of migrant workers in Europe. A book more people should have read. A book more people should read.

As is King: A Street Story – md9419398471one of very few books I re-read (often around New Year for some reason) and one, you may have noticed, I mention at every opportunity. I was very disappointed that it wasn’t shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1999. (Come to think of it I am disappointed it didn’t win him the Nobel Prize for Literature. Perhaps he should have sung it?) Maybe the Black Panther thing made him persona non grata, although he was longlisted for From A To X in 2008.

One of my favourite living writers, Ali Smith, says of him that “a few minutes with Berger and a better world, a better outcome, wasn’t fantasy or imaginary, it was impetus – possible, feasible, urgent and clear. It wasn’t that another world was possible; it was that this world, if we looked differently, and responded differently, was differently possible.

That  better world looks less possible now, but maybe he has found it.

RIP John Berger



Meanwhile, the judges for the 2017 Man Booker Prize were announced just before Christmas, they are: Baroness Lola Young (chair); the travel writer Colin Thubron, whose novel To The Last City was longlisted for the prize in 2002; novelist Sarah Hall (who was shortlisted for The Electric Michelangelo in 2004 and longlisted for How To Paint A Dead Man in 2009); artist Tom Phillips; and literary critic Lila Azam Zanganeh. Their longlist will be revealed in July, the shortlist in September, and the winner announced on October 17th at London’s Guildhall.


January 6, 2017 at 1:44 pm Leave a comment


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