Berger's concentrated essays deal with the essentials: how we sustain ourselves, who has power, and how we are altering nature. For Berger, a Booker Prize winner, painter, philosopher, critic, and activist, the act of seeingthat is, looking at the world intently and inquisitivelyis a form of empathy. He practices this art with particular intent in these provocative, gracefully composed post-9/11 dispatches. Especially attuned to the paradoxes of terrorism and the unremitting, bloody complexities of the Middle East, Berger attempts to fathom the mind of a suicide martyr and express the despair of Palestinians. Seeking revelation in art, he turns to the poet Nazim Hikmet, the painter Francis Bacon, and the composer Antonín Dvorák.Berger suspects that the world has "always been pitiless." But after reflecting on our obsession with profit and our proclivity for war, he concludes, "Today's pitilessness is perhaps more unremitting, pervasive and continuous. It spares neither the planet itself, nor anyone living on it anywhere." Compassionate and tender in his vision of our endangered world, Berger has seen much and felt more. Seaman, Donna
"John Berger writes about what is important, not just interesting. In contemporary English letters he seems to me peerless; not since D. H. Lawrence has there been a writer who offers such attentiveness to the sensual world with responsiveness to the imperatives of conscience."