John Berger (1926-2017) has always been a joy to read. Here, near the end of his life, he has shared his random thoughts and sketches from a notebook, each little essay and drawing stimulating some new thought (or perhaps, for him, reminding him of some half-forgotten one he needs to bring back to life). The notes are written in near-absolute freedom, unconstrained by any need to please or concern to avoid offense. They are rather ways of clearing his own thoughts, for which pencil and sketching pen or brush were tools enabling him to examine his ideas.
All the entries engage us in some rewarding conversation, but one especially impressed me — no doubt because it addresses themes that I, and probably you, have been worrying about, even before this pandemic. I refer to the last little essay, “How to resist a state of forgetfulness.”
In a time and context where all the messages we receive from popular culture, social media, the pretend discourse of politicians who do not control anything, the flood of news reports where one new disaster obliterates the last one, how do we resist forgetfulness? How do we bring ourselves to focus on the things that really matter to our human existence? Through language, whether of words or music or dance or visual art, says Berger, as he has endeavored to do in Confabulations.