A SEVENTH MAN
Migrant Workers in Europe
There are eleven million of them more or less--no one knows exactly. Many are untallied, unofficial nonpersons--who come from Yugoslavia, Portugal, Turkey, Greece, and Sicily to work in asbestos and plastics, in the construction trades and on the assembly lines of Western Europe. Eleven million migrant workers, most living in barracks, out of suitcases, doing the most menial, degrading, dangerous jobs. Berger, a Marxist art critic and novelist (The Look of Things, 1974; G, 1972), has once more collaborated with photographer Jean Mohr--they joined forces on the story of a country doctor, A Fortunate Man--to produce this lament for Europe's sub-proletarian, displaced worker. He is not a man; he is a function. He has no rights, claims or reality outside of his job. He is the surplus human raw material of the postwar industrial miracle. The countryside he left, depleted of its young men, will become even more stagnant. In the metropolis to which he goes he will be the last hired and the first fired when his muscle becomes redundant. As a sexual or political being he does not exist; when he becomes old or sick he will be as useless as refuse. Expendable. Berger's words and Mohr's pictures merge into an eloquent photo essay--think of Wisconsin Death Trip a couple of years ago. Berger manages to portray the demeaning emptiness of the migrant's days without ever becoming shrill or didactic. He seeks the quality of a life of enforced anonymity; the life of the man called a Zigeuner (gypsy), Lumpenpack (rag-pack), Kameltreiber (camel-rider) or Schlangenfresser (snake-eater). In images and words, a collective portrait on the theme of unfreedom.