1926-, British Actor, Critic
A man's death makes everything certain about him. Of course, secrets may die with him. And of course, a hundred years later somebody looking through some papers may discover a fact which throws a totally different light on his life and of which all the people who attended his funeral were ignorant. Death changes the facts qualitatively but not quantitatively. One does not know more facts about a man because he is dead. But what one already knows hardens and becomes definite. We cannot hope for ambiguities to be clarified, we cannot hope for further change, we cannot hope for more. We are now the protagonists and we have to make up our minds.
John Berger – [Death and Dying]
A peasant becomes fond of his pig and is glad to salt away its pork. What is significant, and is so difficult for the urban stranger to understand, is that the two statements are connected by an and not by a but.
John Berger – [Animals]
All nationalisms are at heart deeply concerned with names: with the most immaterial and original human invention. Those who dismiss names as a detail have never been displaced; but the peoples on the peripheries are always being displaced. That is why they insist upon their continuity — their links with their dead and the unborn.
John Berger – [Nationalities and Nationalism]
All photographs are there to remind us of what we forget. In this — as in other ways — they are the opposite of paintings. Paintings record what the painter remembers. Because each one of us forgets different things, a photo more than a painting may change its meaning according to who is looking at it.
John Berger – [Photography]
Autobiography begins with a sense of being alone. It is an orphan form.
John Berger – [Autobiography]
Common-sense is part of the home-made ideology of those who have been deprived of fundamental learning, of those who have been kept ignorant. This ideology is compounded from different sources: items that have survived from religion, items of empirical knowledge, items of protective skepticism, items culled for comfort from the superficial learning that is supplied. But the point is that common-sense can never teach itself, can never advance beyond its own limits, for as soon as the lack of fundamental learning has been made good, all items become questionable and the whole function of common-sense is destroyed. Common-sense can only exist as a category insofar as it can be distinguished from the spirit of inquiry, from philosophy.
John Berger – [Common Sense]
Compare the cinema with theatre. Both are dramatic arts. Theatre brings actors before a public and every night during the season they re-enact the same drama. Deep in the nature of theatre is a sense of ritual. The cinema, by contrast, transports its audience individually, singly, out of the theatre towards the unknown.
John Berger – [Entertainment]
Compassion has no place in the natural order of the world which operates on the basis of necessity. Compassion opposes this order and is therefore best thought of as being in some way supernatural.
John Berger – [Compassion]
Every city has a sex and an age which have nothing to do with demography. Rome is feminine. So is Odessa. London is a teenager, an urchin, and, in this, hasn't changed since the time of Dickens. Paris, I believe, is a man in his twenties in love with an older woman.
John Berger – [Cities and City Life]
Glamour cannot exist without personal social envy being a common and widespread emotion.
John Berger – [Glamour]
I can't tell you what art does and how it does it, but I know that often art has judged the judges, pleaded revenge to the innocent and shown to the future what the past suffered, so that it has never been forgotten. Art, when it functions like this, becomes a meeting-place of the invisible, the irreducible, the enduring, guts, and honor.
John Berger – [Arts and Artists]
Is boredom anything less than the sense of one's faculties slowly dying?
John Berger – [Bores and Boredom]
Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.
John Berger – [Men and Women]
Modern thought has transferred the spectral character of Death to the notion of time itself. Time has become Death triumphant over all.
John Berger – [Time and Time Management]
Nakedness reveals itself. Nudity is placed on display. The nude is condemned to never being naked. Nudity is a form of dress.
John Berger – [Nudity]
Nothing in the nature around us is evil. This needs to be repeated since one of the human ways of talking oneself into inhuman acts is to cite the supposed cruelty of nature.
John Berger – [Evil]
One can say of language that it is potentially the only human home, the only dwelling place that cannot be hostile to man.
John Berger – [Language]
One of the fundamental reasons why so many doctors become cynical and disillusioned is precisely because, when the abstract idealism has worn thin, they are uncertain about the value of the actual lives of the patients they are treating. This is not because they are callous or personally inhuman: it is because they live in and accept a society which is incapable of knowing what a human life is worth.
John Berger – [Doctors]
Ours is the century of enforced travel of disappearances. The century of people helplessly seeing others, who were close to them, disappear over the horizon.
John Berger – [Oppression]
Post-modernism has cut off the present from all futures. The daily media add to this by cutting off the past. Which means that critical opinion is often orphaned in the present.
John Berger – [Critics and Criticism]