All About John Berger

Storyteller, novelist, essayist, screenwriter, dramatist and critic, John Berger (1926–2017) was one of the most internationally influential writers of the last fifty years. His many books include Ways of Seeing; the fiction trilogy Into Their Labours; Here Is Where We Meet; the Booker Prize–winning novel G; Hold Everything Dear; the Man Booker–longlisted From A to X; and A Seventh Man.

"The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight." (Ways of Seeing)

Ways Of Seeing (1972)

'Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.'

John Berger's Ways of Seeing is one of the most stimulating and influential books on art in any language. First published in 1972, it was based on the BBC television series about which the Sunday Times critic commented: 'This is an eye-opener in more ways than one: by concentrating on how we look at paintings... he will almost certainly change the way you look at pictures.' By now he has.

And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief As Photos (1984)

John Berger reveals the ties between love and absence, the ways poetry endows language with the assurance of prayer, and the tensions between the forward movement of sexuality and the steady backward tug of time. He recreates the mysterious forces at work in a Rembrandt painting, transcribes the sensorial experience of viewing lilacs at dusk, and explores the meaning of home to early man and to the hundreds of thousands of displaced people in our cities today. And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos is a seamless fusion of the political and personal.

From A To X (2008)

In a dusty, ramshackle town lives A'ida. Her insurgent husband Xavier has been imprisoned. Resolute, sensuous and tender, A'ida's letters to the man she loves tell of daily events in the town, and of its motley collection of inhabitants whose lives flow through hers. But the town is under threat, and as a faceless power inexorably encroaches from outside, so the smallest details and acts of humanity assume for A'ida a life-affirming significance, acts of resistance against the forces that might otherwise extinguish them.

Why Look At Animals? (2009)

John Berger broke new ground with his penetrating writings on life, art and how we see the world around us. Here he explores how the ancient relationship between man and nature has been broken in the modern consumer age, with the animals that used to be at the centre of our existence now marginalized and reduced to spectacle.

Cataract (2012)

What happens when an art critic loses some of his sight to cataracts? What wonders are glimpsed once vision is restored? In this impressionistic essay, John Berger records the effects of cataract removal operations on each of his eyes. The result is an illuminated take on perception. Berger ponders how we can become accustomed to a loss of sense until a dulled world becomes the norm, and describes the sudden richness of reawakened sight with acute attention to sensory detail. This wise little book beckons us to pay close attention to our own senses and wonder at their significance as we follow Berger’s journey into a more vivid, differentiated way of seeing.

Understanding A Photograph (2013)

John Berger's writings on photography are some of the most original of the twentieth century. This selection contains many groundbreaking essays and previously uncollected pieces written for exhibitions and catalogues in which Berger probes the work of photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and W. Eugene Smith - and the lives of those photographed - with fierce engagement, intensity and tenderness.

Portraits: John Berger On Artists (2015)

John Berger takes us through centuries of drawing and painting, revealing his lifelong fascination with a diverse cast of artists. In penetrating and singular prose, Berger presents entirely new ways of thinking about artists both canonized and obscure, from Rembrandt to Henry Moore, Jackson Pollock to Picasso. Throughout, Berger maintains the essential connection between politics, art and the wider study of culture. The result is an illuminating walk through many centuries of visual culture, from one of the contemporary world’s most incisive critical voices.

Landscapes: John Berger On Art (2016)

In this brilliant collection of diverse essays, short stories, poems, translations which spans a lifetime's engagement with art, John Berger reveals how he came to his own unique way of seeing. He challenges readers to rethink their every assumption about the role of creativity in our lives. Paying homage to the writers and thinkers who influenced him, he pushes at the limits of art writing, demonstrating beautifully how his artist's eye makes him a storyteller, rather than a critic.

Confabulations (2016)

John Berger's work has revolutionized the way we understand visual language. In this new book he writes about language itself, and how it relates to thought, art, song, storytelling and political discourse today. Also containing Berger's own drawings, notes, memories and reflections on everything from Albert Camus to global capitalism, Confabulations takes us to what is 'true, essential and urgent'. cultural figures of the past century.

Smoke (2017)

This charming pictorial essay reflects on the cultural implications of smoking, and suggests, through a series of brilliantly inventive illustrations, that society’s attitude to smoke is both paradoxical and intolerant. It portrays a world in which smokers, banished from public places, must encounter one another as outlaws. Meanwhile, car exhausts and factory chimneys continue to pollute the atmosphere. Smoke is a beautifully illustrated prose poem that lingers in the mind.

What Time Is It? (2019)

What Time Is It? is a playful meditation on the illusory nature of time. Our perception of time assumes a uniform and ceaseless passing of hours, but Berger suggests that time is turbulent. It expands and contracts according to the intensity of the lived moment. In this beautiful essay in pictures, Berger posits the idea that by experiencing the extraordinary, we can defy time itself.

Steps Towards A Small Theory Of The Visible (2020)

'We live within a spectacle of empty clothes and unworn masks'

In this series of remarkable pieces from across his career, John Berger celebrates and dissects the close links between art and society and the individual. Few writers give a more vivid and moving sense of how we make art and how art makes us.


A Jar Of Wild Flowers edited by Yasmin Gunaratnam

In this collection of essays on the work of, and conversations with, John Berger, thirty-seven of his friends, artistic collaborators and followers come together to form the first truly international and cross-cultural celebration of his interventions.

Berger has for decades, through his poetic humanism, brought together geographically, historically and socially disparate subjects. His work continues to throw out lifelines across genres, times and types of experience, opening up radical questions about the meaning of belonging and of community. In keeping with this spirit and in celebration of Berger, these essays challenge us all to take the brave step from limited sympathy to extended generosity.

A Writer Of Our Time by Joshua Sperling

In A Writer of Our Time, Joshua Sperling places Berger's life and works within the historical narrative of postwar Britain and beyond. The book also explores, through the work, the larger questions that vexed a generation: the purpose of art, the nature of creative freedom, the meaning of commitment. Drawing on extensive interviews, close readings and a wealth of archival sources only recently made available, the book brings the many different faces of John Berger together and shows him as one of the most vital, and brilliant, thinkers and storytellers of our time.