Here Is Where We Meet: A Fiction

ISBN: 0375423362
ISBN 13: 9780375423369
By: John Berger

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About this book

One of the most widely admired writers of our time returns us to the captivating play and narrative allure of his previous novels--G. and To the Wedding among them--with a shimmering fiction drawn from chapters of his own life. One hot afternoon in Lisbon, our narrator, John, finds his mother, who had died fifteen years earlier, seated on a park bench. "The dead don't stay where they are buried, " she tells him. And so begins a remarkable odyssey, told in simple yet gorgeous prose and with the openness to personal and political currents that has always marked John Berger's work. Having promised his mother that he will henceforth pay close attention to the dead, John takes us to a woman's bed during the 1943 bombardment of London, to a Polish market where carrier pigeons are sold, to a Paleolithic cave, to the Ritz Hotel in Madrid. Along the way, we meet an English aristocrat who always drives barefoot, a pedophile schoolmaster, a Spanish sculptor who cheats at poker, and Rosa Luxemburg, among other long-gone presences, and John lets us choose to love each of them as much as he still does. This is a unique literary journey in which a writer's life and work are inseparable: a fiction but not a conventional novel, a narration in the author's voice but not a memoir, a portrait that moves freely through time and space but never loses its foothold in the present, a confession that brings with it not regret but a rich deepening of sensual and emotional understanding.

Reader's Thoughts

Phoebe

So far, I adore this. And perfect timing. Kind of meta-fiction...It's been years since I read "Ways of Seeing" for one of my art classes, and when a friend of mine got this for me, I was very excited to see something by Berger again. It's an incredibly easy / fast read, and very interesting. There's not much subtext - it's pretty much all right there on the surface. Extremely accessible. Definitely makes me want to read more of his fiction.

Terri Epp

I read about a quarter of this book and found I could not get into it. The strange meetings with his dead mother seemed to flip all around with no substance to it.

Áine Ryan

John Berger can do no wrong in my book.

TinHouseBooks

Veronica Martin (Editorial Intern, The Open Bar): Barely back from the tropics and already I’m itching to travel again, this time to John Berger’s kind of city where the dead are as present as the living in Lisbon, Geneva, Madrid, Krakow. There is a mood to Here Is Where We Meet, this gem of a book by Berger, that holds a kind of wanderlust for the interim realm of the dead and the past and the in-between. And, I like to think—by way of that past tense, by it’s very momentary disconnect from the now—for the present. Berger captures the kind of personality a place takes on when you are traveling alone, revisiting places and memories alone, feeling the presence of another’s absence… alone. His cities are haunted and haunting, a platform through which to experience his deceased mother, ask her questions, learn from her journey through death the way we so completely, so physically, wish we could have a conversation with some of our own deceased beloved. This book shivers along the spine of surrealism, imagining the act of cooking and serving a meal as a way for the already dead to connect with other already dead in a sort of melting of time and space. To feel, through cooking, the presence of someone’s absence: “He’ll eat it, wherever he is, when he happens to think of me. Just as I think of him when I’m preparing it.” Indeed, the presence of John’s mother is as real when she is appears—on a park bench with “the kind of stillness that draws attention to itself,” as an old woman, a seventeen year old voice, all knowing at times—as when she is nowhere to be found. The idea that the dead choose the city in which they want to live, as she explains, is wildly romantic and so, to me, is this book in the same way a sustained note of heartbreak can be romantic: indulgent and pure and grounding. This book’s presence in a room in a hand in a mind is hushed, Berger so takes you into the particular world of his protagonist. And there, time and presence is apart, the world’s human sound outside the vacuum of some in-between into which you as reader have slipped without even realizing it: “You can either be fearless, or you can be free, you can’t be both.”

Andrew

A wonderful writer. His talent is unquestionable and the story idea is wonderful--from place to place our narrator encounters the whimsical dead for a last conversation which has little, very little to do with death and everything to do with the reminder of the parts of others which they have given to us. We will always be able to see the world through the eyes of the people we love most, so why shouldn't they literally be with us there?Without a narrative structure the book begins to lose itself towards the end but it's short enough it's hard to notice. My favorite part was a visit, with the narrator's daughter, to one of the few characters to stay dead, the grave of Jorge Luis Borges. A beautiful, beautiful scene

Justin

I had forgotten how much I liked this book until now. Berger is one of my favorite authors and this is his most recent book. It reads like a magic-realism memoir, with wonderful images and wise reflections on life. Favorite Quote (One of many): What is in motion is neither in the space where it is, nor in the space where it isn't; for me this is a definition of music.

Debbie Robson

** spoiler alert ** I find these days I tend to read more male writers than female and one of my new favourite male writers is John Berger. In Crossing Paths he not only chose the same title as myself for a book but he has written in a way that suggests he really is a kindred spirit and that similar themes are important to him too.In Crossing Paths the protagonist John is travelling to some very fascinating places and meeting with the dead -with the people that have influenced him the most. Early in the novel John asks his dead mother: “So time doesn’t count and place does?” I felt a prickle at the back of my neck reading those words. Why can’t the dead live anywhere they chose? His dead mother has chosen Lisboa because of the trams. “There aren’t many cities left with trams, are there?” she asks him.There is a chapter on Borges and Geneva and a wonderful chapter on Krakow and Ken, an older man who taught the young John a lot about life and how to live. John remembers Ken standing on the edge of a cliff making a sketch of the sea, near Brighton the summer of 1939. In London the protagonist remembers a woman he made love to and how they would look out the window at the trees in Coram’s Fields. In the village of Gorecko near the Ukranian border John meditates on his new friends, a wedding and a child. In his writing I am there in Gorecko, marvelling at a completely different way of life; I’m standing on the Aguas Livres acqueduct in the Alcantara valley and I’m in a London long gone. This book, touching on lives and places is much more enjoyable than any travel book I have read and in a strange way more informative.

Xiaomin Zu

A wonderful read in a rainy day when I miss my mom.

Marie

have to read it - just because John Berger wrote it!

Jennifer

Wonderful first chapter, set in one of my favorite cities (Lisbon), in which the protagonist meets up with his dead mother. It's just lovely, the way that they interact, not sappy, not too obvious, but just sort of picking up where they left off, despite the separation of death. All the chapters are set in different cities, and all put the main character in contact with a deceased person from his past. The Cracow chapter is quite good...wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to have another beer, just casually, with an old friend who has passed on? The writing is really good, too...restrained but evocative, both in describing the cities and the people. I think I was thinking Thomas Berger when I bought this book (doh!), but glad to meet up with another talented writer of that name.

Lazarus P Badpenny Esq

Ranging across Europe with settings in Lisbon, Krakow, London and elsewhere these stories recount the narrator’s meetings with the dead of his past. Married to this theme of movement via time and place is that of migrant populations, propelled by economic necessity or other kinds of searching. The intellectual nomadism of Berger’s novel is conveyed through writing that is both poignant and deeply sensual.

Editorial Alfaguara

En Lisboa, un hombre, John, encuentra a su madre sentada en un banco del parque. Ella r�e como una colegiala. Lleva muerta quince a�os. En un mercado de Cracovia, entre las verduras y las campesinas, reconoce a Ken, la persona m�s importante de su vida de los once a los diecisiete a�os. La misma complicidad existe todav�a entre los dos. La �ltima vez que se vieron fue hace cuarenta a�os. En la casa de Hubert en Islington, su compa�ero de la escuela de arte, John recuerda a una chica que conoci� entonces. La sol�a llamar Tirol... La cantidad de vidas que caben en una sola es incalculable. En este libro n�mada, que viaja a trav�s de Europa, historias aparentemente dispares revelan su conexi�n, y los objetos descolocados encuentran su lugar. Recuerdos sensuales del pasado penetran en la piel del presente como la sal. En su paso a trav�s de fronteras y zonas horarias, Aqu� nos vemos es una obra hermosa, radiante e inesperada.

Eric

The power and the poetry of this novel (which can as easily be classified as a memoir, probably) sneaks up on you, and it's the kind of novel that will undoubtedly reward re-readings. It's retrospective travel literature of the most touching order, tender ghost stories of love and compassion, and is filled throughout with Berger's trademark power of visual observation, his awareness of the poetry of the everyday."Life depends on finding cover," the narrator writes. "Everything hides. What has vanished has gone into hiding. An absence--as after the departure of the dead--is felt as a loss but not as an abandonment. The dead are hiding elsewhere." It little matters if you, too, have been to Geneva, Madrid and Berger's other locales in this book; anyone can relate to these vignettes which find the author re-visiting the places of his life, communing with family members and friends who have passed away, and reflecting on the path (and nearing end perhaps) of his own life.

Paul Secor

Billed as "A Fiction" on the cover, Here Is Where We Meet is a mixture of memories, ideas, and experiences with people the author has met in different places and at different times. The book begins with the narrator meeting his mother, who has been dead for 15 years, in Lisbon. She tells him to "do us (the dead) the courtesy of noticing us." From there, the book entails a visit to Geneva to meet with his daughter to visit Jorge Luis Borges' grave site; a visit to a old art school classmate who seems to be living, but whose wife has passed away; a meeting with mentor who had a fascinating life; and a visit to the Chauvet cave to see the oldest known rock paintings in the world. The last 1/4 of the book died out a bit (at least for me), but the rest was wonderful.

Joyce

As an artist I'm a big fan of John Berger. This book is delightful. Each section takes place in a different city: Lisbon, Madrid, Paris, London and Krackow and each of these the main person (the author himself) meets again with a dead person who had been very close to him in life. They discuss the close to heart issues they never talked about while they were living. Because he sees with an artist's eye, the descriptions of the cities and countryside are vivid and as colorful as paintings and if you've visited these cities it's like going back for another brush with Europe. Each encounter is packed with nuances that only an artist sees, feels and records.

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