AND OUR FACES, MY HEART, BRIEF AS PHOTOS
Modest, uncontentious reflections on things personal and epochal--time and timelessness, love, home--by the noted Marxist critic of art and society. Berger's first series of vignettes and poems is entitled "Once" (as "Once in a Story," "Once in a Painting"). The thoughts are not remarkable--the duality of body and consciousness, the primacy of words over communication in poetry. But there is also a political dimension: "No social value any longer underwrites the time of consciousness"; "every modern society is aware of its own ephemerality." From the past and the future comes the capacity to name the intolerable: "That is why politics and courage are inevitable." ("The time of the torturer is agonizingly but exclusively of the present.") The second section, "Here," has mainly to do with emigration and displacement. "Home was the center of the world because it was the place where a vertical line crossed with a horizontal one. . . The choices open to men and women today--even amongst many of the underprivileged--may be more numerous than in the past, but what has been lost irretrievably is the choice of saying: this is the center of the world." Still, they improvise a shelter--of habit and love. Explorations of Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Caravaggio overlap with self-inscription. Near-homilies--less stimulating, or irritating, than usual.