John Berger, And our faces...

And our faces, my heart, brief as photos: one of the more evocative titles you'll come across, I'd say. The book lives up to that evocative title, I think, but (a) I'm not sure because I'm confident that I don't really understand the book, and (b) to the extent that I think the book lives up to the title, it's because the book is more evocative than clear.

Berger's full of interesting ideas about time and its passage, as well as about the here-ness of the world, but it reads more like a series of connected fragments than anything else. Clearly that's part of the project, but it didn't hook me this time. It might hook me on a future reading, since I intend to give it multiple reads over the years, but not this time.

I've wanted to read this book for a long time, because Berger's Ways of Seeing and About Looking are iconic books about perception, and Berger's politics are intriguing. AOFMHBAP didn't disappoint, but I just didn't connect especially well with it -- until the end.

The last page is heart-breakingly good:
What reconciles me to my own death more than anything else is the image of a place: a place where your bones and mine are buried, thrown, uncovered, together. They are strewn there pell-mell. One of your ribs leans against my skull. A metacarpal of my left hand lies inside your pelvis. (Against my broken ribs your breast like a flower.) The hundred bones of our feet are scattered like gravel. It is strange that this image of our proximity, concerning as it does mere phosphate of calcium, should bestow a sense of peace. Yet it does. With you I can imagine a place where to be phosphate of calcium is enough. (101)
The last line made me tear up. There's some frankly unnecessary sexual imagery in the passage ("my left hand lies inside your pelvis"? really?), but oh the last line.... I don't know that I've seen a sense of love's eternity that works this well for an atheist, and I don't know that I will.


Elaine said…
Complicite used that quote as the last "lines" in "A Disappearing Number." It was also amazingly powerful.
richard said…
Wow, cool link! Is credit given in the show or program or something to John Berger?

I'm still stunned by the lines, and I'm now feeling compelled toward finding a way to see A Disappearing Number....

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