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

Night RPM

Sublime and subtle "ghost" stories. Not too many people seem to have appreciated this book when it came out, and probably won't be remembered as one of Berger's "important" books when he passes, but the pleasures afforded by this book are delightful and many.

Ronan Mcdonnell

I am part-way through. There is a lovely moment I must note down.The book is a fiction, wound around the details of the author's life. He meets his dead mother and tells her he working on an autobiography.She advises him not to, he will get it wrong______I have now finished it.It is a wonderful, melodic book. A quiet meditation on the unspoken minutiae of the details in our relationships. There is a gossamer melancholy throughout, a sense of the frailty of life and the bonds we form. But this same feeling is a celebration of these details, of the smaller parts that make instances memorable.

Bookmarks Magazine

Though critics can't agree exactly what genre Berger is working in ("autobiographical fiction, fictional autobiography, or maybe a hybrid of breviary, consecration, and ancestor worship," says Harper's), the praise for his writing comes so close to unanimity that classification seems beside the point. It's one thing to earn artistic freedom, something this British author has done with classic works of fiction (the trilogy Into Their Labors) and art criticism (About Looking and Ways of Seeing); it's quite another to create something lasting from that sense of liberation. Some tales fare better than others, but the leadoff ramble around Lisbon is an example of an author working at the top of his game__at age 80, no less. Rather than looking to the past, Berger brings the dead to life today, when it seems he and the reader need their guidance the most.This is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.


john berger racconta storie. davanti agli occhi scorrono immagini, città lontane, ricordi ancora presenti, volti, emozioni discrete. si chiude il libro e le parole rimangono nel cuore- emozionante.


Reading this was like eating a perfectly ripe mango while crying.


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.

Cynthia Rosi

Berger brings people who are invisible and dead into the landscape where he's living, although he doesn't speak with the ghosts in the setting in which he knew them. He's in a place they never shared together, whether that's in England or abroad. If we take the book literally, we enter into his communion with the ghosts in his life: his mother, his lover, his schoolteacher, his headmaster. At the end of the book, something fills the outlines. It's Mirek's baby Olek. As Olek begins to take center stage, we realize that Berger will also be a ghost for Olek one day.

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.


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.


having only read 'ways of seeing' long ago, didn't know berger's other genres...this is a tour de force, and his dialogues pass through each other in chapters on places (mostly) like fitful lights through smoke, a touch in the dark...history is a veil here, bearing up visitations with the ghosts of his mother in lisbon, his lovers in various places, his teachers, his responses to cro-magnon cave drawings, one painting (rembrandt the polish rider)...eager now to read his novels, not sure where to start.

Nsikan -TheSensitiveWriter- Akpan

I started reading it but stopped. Maybe this is something I will only be able to understand when I reach a certain age. But while I'm 18, it's not working for me.

Lane Ashfeldt

Artist, Marxist art critic and author John Berger is likely to be best remembered as writer of the influential ‘Ways of Seeing’, a book and accompanying TV series dating to 1972. The book became a cornerstone of cultural studies theory and is, to this day, required reading at art schools and universities around the world. The fact that in the same year he received the Booker Prize for an experimental novel, ‘G’, is relatively overlooked, as is his acceptance speech in which he deplored literary awards and announced his intention to donate half his prize money to the Black Panthers. If this sounds like the attention-seeking bluster of an enfant terrible, it is worth noting that at the time the writer was actually 46. Now nearly 80, Berger has burst back on to the literary scene with the publication of ‘Here is where we meet’, a book that mixes fiction with essay, past with present, and death with life.Structured and packaged as eight and a half pieces of fiction, these ‘stories’ provide a framework for autobiographical essays that have as much in common with travel writing and philosophy as with fiction, and the book also finds time to intermittently argue with itself over whether or not it is an autobiography. The protagonist, John, bears a number of resemblances to Berger. In the early pages, his mother cautions him: —You sound like somebody writing an autobiography. Don’t.— Don’t what? —You’re bound to get it wrong. Throughout this opening story, ‘Lisboa’, John converses with his dead mother. Each meeting, be it in a square or a café, at a fish market or on an elevated aqueduct, is described in luminous detail; together, these sequences function as an eloquent meditation on life, love, and death. John dances with his mother in a Lisbon café, and other café-goers stare, because she is only there for him. Elsewhere in the book dead teachers are encountered in Krakow and Madrid, while in the Islington home of a former art school colleague John sips tea and reminisces about friends, now lost or dead, who once meant everything to him, in a house itself redolent with its own half-remembered histories.An intimate book that deals lightly with heavy themes, ‘Here is where we meet’ gives its reader the impression of meeting, perhaps even being led an imaginary dance by, its author. It is for this reason a book which the reader does not want to end.(I wrote this review and it was first published in the Irish Examiner in 2005)Ways of SeeingWays of SeeingJohn Berger

Charlie Zoops

Being a painter, a drawing teacher and an art critic, The writing of John Berger can arrive to the reader as a form of composition, words stoked against the canvas of the page into a assemblage of beauty, which blends the colours of history, the deep contrasting tones of memory, and the brilliant illuminations that radiate off the lively people who inhabit them.Often what emanates from John Berger's work is an ethical force, where creation takes on the role as a binding element which coheres the worlds richness and difficulties into an artful and dynamic vibration between compassion and content.Here is Where we Meet: is a blending of fiction, memoir and essay into a story of vastly dispersed rendezvous points, chosen by the dead.The first meeting point is that of his mother, who he encounters on a park bench in Lisboa, Portugal. "The dead," she announces, "When they are dead, get to chose where they live on Earth."She has chosen Lisboa, for the games it plays on its people, for the azulejos tiles, the trams, the aqueducts, and for its unending prayers which marvel the city into a place of hopefulness. John is asked one thing from his mother, for him the courtesy of remembering the dead, a sensitive role which he will embark on throughout the book. Venturing through the quiet cemeteries and cabinet-like homes of Geneve, or against the gritty food markets of Krakow where carrier pigeons are sold, or even into the dark and primal cavities of Chauvet, where the oldest cave paintings in the world are marked by the brute hands of the Cro-Magnons, Here, in reminiscing of the memories of those who vanished, of those who will deliver their voices yet again, for the truths of history, and for the unveiling intentions of their lost meanings.In a passionate style which is both open and deliberate, John Berger writes of what his remarkably keen eyes have discovered from this world, and of the events absent of observation which can only persist in the afterlife, and beyond life itself, into imagination.

Xiaomin Zu

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


I've read the English pocket edition which has been published by Vintage International. John Berger's "Here is where we meet" is fiction at it's best and tells the stories of the narrator's encounters with people that are dead for a long time. And these people played an important role in the narrator's past. By the way, there are also translations of this book into German and other languages. The book starts and ends with a talk that the narrator has with his dead mother. At different places in Europe, like Lisbon, Poland and other locations, the narrator has more of those encounters in which the dead persons become interlocutors and companions. John Berger blends in his book the past and the present, and he mixes his autobiography, different travelogues, history and phantasy as well. In this book you can guess what it means to be free in your writing in the here and now.Ich habe die englische Taschenbuchausgabe, die bei Vintage International erschienen ist, gelesen. John Bergers "Here is where we meet" ist Fiktion im besten Sinne und erzählt von Begegnungen des Ich-Erzählers in der Gegenwart mit längst verstorbenen Personen, die eine Rolle in seiner Vergangenheit gespielt haben. Eine deutsche Ausgabe ist im Carl Hanser Verlag erschienen. Das Buch beginnt und endet mit einem Gespräch, das der Ich-Erzähler mit seiner toten Mutter führt. An verschiedenen Orten in Europa, wie beispielsweise in Lissabon oder auch in Polen, kommt es zu weiteren solchen Begnungen, in denen die Toten zu Gesprächspartnern und Begleitern werden. Vergangenheit und Gegenwart vermengt John Berger in diesem Roman genau so wie Autobiographie, Reisebeschreibung, Geschichte und Fantasie. Man ahnt beim Lesen die Freiheit der Kunst im Hier und Jetzt.

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