The Selected Essays of John Berger

Peter Wollen writes:

John Berger’s selected essays run to nearly six hundred pages, yet that is just the tip of the iceberg if one looks at the totality of his published work: the essays and reviews about the visual arts – drawing, painting, photography, film – but also short stories, journals, screenplays, travel articles, letters, television scripts, translations, novels, poems, even a requiem in three parts which gives a wrenching account of the untimely deaths of three of Berger’s neighbours. From 1951 to 1961 he wrote reviews for the New Statesman, and subsequently published regularly in New Society, as well as New Left Review, the Observer, the Sunday Times Magazine, Marxism Today, Réalités, the Village Voice, Harpers, Granta, Expressen, El País and 7 Days. It is a daunting task to find some way of coming to terms with such a rich and extensive body of work, all of it marked by Berger’s unflagging seriousness, his insistence on somehow merging personal response, social insight, aesthetic theory and political commentary. Every piece is rigorously thought through but also heartfelt, sometimes almost embarrassingly so.

(LRB 4 April 2002)