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

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.”

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.

Anna

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

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

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.

Pam

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.

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."

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.

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.

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.

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.

Frances Sawaya

This book was on a strict loan of one week from my art teacher who rarely lets it leave her side. Why have I never heard of the author before? What a treasure he is. The cover with the green gage plums is a treasure in itself. I enjoyed his tales from his travels, especially as I/we have been to many of the same places and seen, heard, tasted many of the same wonders. I am not big on quoting long passages from books so this one from the chapter "Islington" will suffice. "We simply became the Vasco da Gama of our two bodies."I have a request in at the library for more of his works. Looking forward to them.

Marie

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

Elmar

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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