I got Confabulations because Warren Ellis recommended in his newsletter a while back. I’ve read John Berger’s Ways of Seeing and liked it a lot, so I knew I wanted to read his final book. The book did not disappoint. It’s a random collection of thoughts that took me through art, music, drawing, and the world. I really enjoyed it.
There were passages in this book that were like punches in the gut. His way with words, his no holds barred critique of our modern world, and his embrace of beauty all hit me sharply. But he also reflected back on his life by talking about various friendships. Berger died in 2017 at the age of 90 and so saw a lot of the world and, I imagine, outlived a lot of his friends and peers.
These essays were quick reads, but I often stopped to reread and think. And although I rarely reread books, I’ll most likely be reading this one again in the near future.
The activity of writing has been a vital one for me; it helps me to make sense of things and continue. Writing, however, is an off-shoot of something deeper and more general — our relationship with language as such. (p 3)
Today the global tyranny of speculative financial capitalism, which uses national governments as its slave-masters, and the world media as its dope-distributor, this tyranny whose sole aim is profit and ceaseless accumulation, imposes on us a view and pattern of life which is hectic, merciless, inexplicable. And this view of life is even closer to the 10 year-old’s proverbial view of the world than was life at the time the early Chaplin films were shot. (p 40-41)