JOHN BERGER – A GREAT ONE

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Today I remember John Berger – one of the Greatest of the Great.

To read in my newspaper that he ‘produced artistic concepts emphatically founded in Marxism’ is embarrassing. Berger, who just died, was an uomo universale who could not be pressed in a pigeon hole, and certainly could not be caught in any hole.

From his masterly novel G – a book that taught me what it is to write and also made of me a critical feminist – to the lyrical Here is where we meet, he has proved himself to be a class apart.

His art analysis could not completely convince me, but the arguments in Ways of Seeing require a thorough refutation. After all, you need not be a fan of abstract art to appreciate the thoughts of a lover of abstract art.

Someone who was able to take the mickey out of all sorts and conditions of men, people with the most varied political backgrounds, was obviously a committed man, not only trying to test the façade of his own opinions, but also their backside.

Someone who spends half his life in France and has seen farmers become industrial producers of electricity, equipped with machinery which should be treated with respect, can understand Berger when he considers the disappearance of the peasantry as ‘perhaps the final stage of the elimination of history itself’.

John Berger did not suffer from any kind of peasant mysticism, but tried to understand what it was that made Europe once and how this is now fading.

He may also have known that the time of the uomo universale is over.

Sierksma 4.1.17

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Author: rjsiersk

contact: rjsiersk@xs4all.nl Sierksma was born in Friesland, a 'county' in the northern part of the Netherlands with its own language which he does not speak and with an obstinate population to which he both belongs and does not belong. A retired Professor of Social Philosophy and Aesthetics, as a Harkness fellow he taught at Rutgers and Berkeley Universities in the USA, and at GUAmsterdam and TUDelft in the Netherlands. In 1991 he was awarded his PhD from Leiden University on the subject of 'Surveillance and Task: Labour Discipline between Utilitarianism and Pragmatism'. His books include Minima Memoria (1993), Lost View (2002 with Jan van Geest), and Litter Scent (2013). He has published poems and articles in Te Elfder Ure, Nynade, Oasis and the Architectural Annual. Half the year he lives in Haarlem, the other half he spends in la France Profonde, living ‘in his own words’ as the house out there was bought with the winnings from his essay Eternal Sin, written for the ECI Essay Prize (1993). In this blog, Sierksma's Sequences, written in English, he is peeping round his own and other people’s perspectives. Not easily satisfied with answers nor with questions, he turns his wry wit to a number of philosophical and historical issues. His aim in writing: to make parts of the world light up in his perspective - not my will, thine! Not being a thief, he has no cook, one wife, some children, one lover and three cats. He would not ind being a cat.

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