A Writer of Our Time

A Writer of Our Time : The Life and Work of John Berger

4.21 (47 ratings by Goodreads)
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John Berger was one of the most influential thinkers and writers of postwar Europe. As a novelist, he won the Booker Prize in 1972, donating half his prize money to the Black Panthers; as a TV presenter he changed the way we looked at art in Ways of Seeing; as a storyteller and political activist he defended the rights and dignity of workers, migrants and the oppressed around the world. In 1953 he wrote: ""Far from dragging politics into art, art has dragged me into politics."" He remained a revolutionary up to his death in January, 2017.

In A Writer of Our Time, Joshua Sperling places Berger's life and works within the historical narrative of postwar Britain and beyond. The book also explores, through the work, the larger questions that vexed a generation: the purpose of art, the nature of creative freedom, the meaning of commitment. Drawing on extensive interviews, close readings and a wealth of archival sources only recently made available, the book brings the many different faces of John Berger together and shows him as one of the most vital, and brilliant, thinkers and storytellers of our time.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 22.86mm | 368g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 178663743X
  • 9781786637437
  • 684,229

Review quote

"This engaging intellectual biography traces Berger's creative evolution, analyzes highlights from his vast output ... and situates them within his empathetic Marxism." --New Yorker

"The remarkable John Berger has gotten the thoughtful, sensitive study he deserves. Joshua Sperling is at ease in every aspect of this extraordinarily multifaceted writer's life: his art criticism, his fiction, his passionate political commitment, his immersion in the lives of Alpine villagers, and more. Lovers of Berger's work will find a rich array of background here, and those who don't yet know Berger will, I hope, be inspired to read him." --Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold's Ghost

"The author of G., A Seventh Man and Ways of Seeing was of course a lifelong controversialist and revolutionary. But, ultimately, he was a man 'defined less by what he was against than by what he loved.' Occasionally critical, always passionate, Joshua Sperling's study of John Berger is as observant, rigorous, profound and as surprisingly entertaining as its subject." --David Edgar, author of Written on the Heart

"Berger's talent for 'seeing all sides' of a thing, his incredible floating perspective, would have been worth less had he not used it to choose the right side." --Sarah Nicole Prickett, Bookforum

"Across the 90 years of John Berger's life, he was by turns, and sometimes at the same time, an art critic and novelist, documentarian and screenwriter, farm laborer and historian, poet and polemicist ... Does this mass of apparent contradictions add up to anything? The trick for any would-be biographer of John Berger is to find the unity in variety. Joshua Sperling is up to the task." --Robert Minto, Los Angeles Review of Books

"With sophistication and passion to match his subject, Sperling unfolds a chronological and thematic assessment of Berger ... [A Writer of Our Time] is a lively and astute contribution to the writing on Berger, as well as to scholarship on the last 50 years of the cultural left in general." --Publishers Weekly

"A welcome intervention that does justice to the legacy of Berger's thought and work which has been criminally underappreciated in Britain." --Morning Star

"A Writer of Our Time, switches expertly from the political to the personal and back, mapping the highs and lows of an eventful-and sometimes turbulent-life." -- Sunday Guardian Live

"Well-argued, interesting and informed" - The Art Newspaper

"An excellent introduction not only to Berger but also to the aesthetic and political issues of his era. Sperling is a clear and elegant writer, and the book is very well researched." - Choice

"A first-order intellectual biography of John Berger . . . Sperling explores the context of Berger's development with reference to the rapidly evolving social and political climate." - Choice, editor's picks

"Sharp, moving, and immensely readable" - Bruce Robbins, The Nation

"Sperling provides context for the art and political movements of Berger's years such that we now have a full context for the evolution of his ideas and style-and the remarkable variety of his sustained output. ... There is no question that Berger is one of the most influential arts and culture intellectuals of the past 50 years." - Ron Slate, On the Seawall
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About Joshua Sperling

Joshua Sperling was born in New York City and grew up in California. His writing has appeared in the Brooklyn Rail, Guernica, Film Quarterly, Jump Cut and Bullett Magazine, among other publications. He received a PhD in Comparative Literature, Film and Media from Yale University and currently teaches at Oberlin College.
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Rating details

47 ratings
4.21 out of 5 stars
5 36% (17)
4 49% (23)
3 15% (7)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
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