john berger our faces mu heart brief as photos illustration

John Berger and his ways of moving me

John Berger (1926-2017) has written such beautiful things, reading his books inspires me to draw or paint. I really can’t get enough of his books, so happy that I still got several to go. If you don’t know his writing, he usually writes about art(-related) or social subjects, a bit philosophically, very interesting. Besides that he’s also written several fiction books, though I haven’t gotten around to reading those yet ;-)

My drawing based on in his writing

This is an illustration based on part of his book: And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos, one of my favorite Berger books. It’s a strange little book filled with lovely and interesting essays about art, love and humanity. Not only did this following passage make me draw, it makes me want to sent parcels and letters to loved-ones as well :)

I know it could be a little daunting reading this next text thoroughly, but I’m sure you won’t regret it. And you’ll get a good taste of John’s way of writing ;-)
Here it goes:

“The post office at Auxonne is small and the postmistress has blue eyes. I have been there only twice. The first time was to send you a parcel; as the postmistress weighed it on the scale, I imagined your hands opening it. “Four kilos, three hundred grams.” In a parcel, wrapped by hand, there is a message weighing nothing: the receiver’s fingers may unknot the string which the sender’s tied. In the post office I saw in my mind’s eye your fingers untying the knot I tied at Auxonne.

Ten days later I again stopped in the town, and went to the post office, this time to post you a letter. I remembered the day when I sent off the parcel and I felt a twinge of loss. Yet what had I lost? The parcel arrived safely. You had made soup with the beetroots. And the bottle of distilled water from the flowers of the orange trees you had placed on its shelf, above your dresses in the cupboard. All that had been lost was the little future of the parcel.
What we mourn for the dead is the loss of their hopes. The man-with-the-parcel was as if dead; he could hope no more. The man-with-the-letter had taken his place.”

Some other John Berger books that I really enjoyed:

  • The Red Tenda of Bologna
    A very short, but beautiful book about his visit to Bologna.
  • Bento’s Sketchbook
    A book with Berger’s illustrations and writings inspired by the writings of Baruch Spinoza
  • About Looking
    Essays about looking, seeing
  • Portraits
    A large collection of his essays on painters and their work

PS: The portrait on top of this post I drew with a fountain pen, the way he loved drawing most, with all the smudges and all that :) – He (and Dr. Who) made me fall in love with it too!)

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