Here Is Where We Meet: A Story of Crossing Paths

ISBN: 1400079330
ISBN 13: 9781400079339
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, the narrator finds his long-dead mother 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, that carries us from the London Blitz in 1943, to a Polish market, to a Paleolithic cave, to the Ritz Hotel in Madrid. Here Is Where We Meet is a unique literary journey that moves freely through time and space but never loses its foothold in the sensuous present.

Reader's Thoughts

lori mitchell

this is a beautiful, beautiful book. john berger has the ability to paint a beautiful picture with his words. my words will never do it justice. seriously one of the best books i've ever read. it's just beautiful. my favorite quotes:"If you have to cry, he said, and sometimes you can't help it, if you have to cry, cry afterwards, never during! Remember this. Unless you're with those who love you, only those who love you, and in that case you're already lucky, for there are never many who love you--if you're with them, you can cry during. Otherwise you cry afterwards.""the number of lives that enter our own is incalculable.""..maybe every love invents a vocabulary, a cover to shelter under."

Áine Ryan

John Berger can do no wrong in my book.

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


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.


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.


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

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.


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.

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