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Photocopies: Encounters Paperback – March 17, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0679755173 ISBN-10: 0679755179

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (March 17, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679755179
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679755173
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,337,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

As well known for his art criticism as his novels, which include Pig Earth and To the Wedding, John Berger brings a visual acumen to his prose. And as a Marxist living among French peasantry, his politics inform his writing as well. The three--visual art, Marxist politics, poetic fiction--combine in these stories, or rather "memory visions," in a most effective way. The resulting alloy is larger than the elements, a beautiful and lyrical collection of narrative strands, frugal and melancholoy in tone. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Taking on the themes of art, friendship and time's passage, Berger (To the Wedding) fashions brief shorts that subtly replicate the photograph's ability to preserve a transient moment. Berger's subjects include his familiar Parisian artists and French peasants, but there are unexpected detours?e.g., into Paul Klee's art ("Sheets of Paper Laid on the Grass") or the communiques of Subcommandante Marcos, leader of the Zapatista revolt in the Mexican state of Chiapas ("Subcommandante Insurgente"). Most of these spare stories revolve around a single, central detail or scene: deceptive small talk on a bus to Derry ("Passenger to Omagh") or a difficult calving on New Year's Day ("Two Men Beside a Cow's Head"). Only rarely does Berger's imagination fail to penetrate his subject's surface, as in his rhetorically sketched newswire image of a Russian girl fighting in the 1993 attempted parliamentary putsch ("A Young Woman Wearing a Chapka"). At his best, as in his meditations on Simone Weil's writing table ("A Girl Like Antigone") or his drawing of a young Ukranian pianist ("A Young Woman with Hand to Her Chin"), Berger captures all at once the facets of an object, a moment and a person. "Nothing should be lost or wasted," Berger writes in a eulogy for a villager, a claim that could stand as the epigraph to a book in which he frequently manages, through a few simple facts and words, to suggest a life.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

John Berger was born in London in 1926. He is well known for his novels and stories as well as for his works of nonfiction, including several volumes of art criticism. His first novel, A Painter of Our Time, was published in 1958, and since then his books have included the novel G., which won the Booker Prize in 1972. In 1962 he left Britain permanently, and he lives in a small village in the French Alps.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By "botatoe" on April 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
"Photocopies" is a collection of twenty-eight stories, together with a photograph and a drawing. None of the stories is more than a few pages. Each of the "stories" is a vivid prose rendering of a person or place that left a seemingly indelible impression on John Berger's acutely refined sense of seeing. It is a collection marked by a minimalist sensibility, but not the cold, sterile minimalism found in the writing of Samuel Beckett or Gordon Lish. It is, instead, the warm, heartfelt minimalism of a writer striving to capture the fleeting, but enduringly memorable, moments of a human life.
"Photocopies" opens not with a photocopy, but with a photograph: the blurred, poorly-lighted photograph of a man and a woman standing under a tree. It is a sort of introduction to the first story, "A Woman and Man Standing by a Plum Tree," where Berger relates his memory of a woman he once met at a reading in Madrid who then turned up, several years later, at his country home in France. The woman is not identified by name. She is in her thirties, an artist and photographer who makes her living by restoring frescoes. The woman brings along a primitive, home-made plywood camera and, at the end of her visit, takes a picture of the two of them together under a plum tree:
"The two of us stood there facing the camera. We moved, of course, but not more than the plum trees did in the wind. Minutes passed. Whilst we stood there, we reflected the light, and what we reflected went through the black hole into the dark box. It'll be of us, she said, and we waited expectantly.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on February 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is the first work that I have read by Mr. John Berger. Entitled, "Photocopies", it is a collection of 29 memories that he made more permanent by placing them in print. I don't know at what point a novella becomes a short story, or when the latter becomes something else again. Mr. Berger presents these 29 experiences in 180 pages, and while the number presented can be said to be great as measured by the little space they occupy, it would be an error to judge the quality of what they contain by their brevity.
There are not many Authors who can skillfully execute short literary works. By their definition they allow comparatively short spans of space and reading time to take the reader where the Author has mapped his or her trip. So what level of skill and experience can make a reader enjoy and think when provided with only a handful of words? Quite high for the former, and lengthy for the latter I think.
Not many writers can create a sentence that includes the work of both Donatello and Thelonius Monk to explain the achievement of a prison escape. The reader is also treated to metaphors that will become memories. Mr. Berger in describing the aged hands of a laborer could have slipped into cliché, or a variant on many others. However he compares the hands to, "certain old words that today are going out of use".
This volume is a remarkable collection of thoughts, observations and memories that never exceed a few pages, and in one example consumes only a single leaf. Yet they are all of interest, they provoke thought, and they illustrate what results when skill, gifts, and life experience are placed on paper.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 15, 1997
Format: Hardcover
"Photocopies" is profound. Like those "packed"
files on computer software disks that unpack
when you load the program, these brief pieces
unpack in my mind. I can read only about two
at a time because they are so satisfyin
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Elisabeth Harvor on June 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
It's tempting to put quotes around the word "stories" when talking about John Berger's stories in Photocopies since they aren't really stories at all: they're sketches, quick studies, notes for stories, tributes, obituaries, or fey bulletins from a playful (and sometimes even too strategically playful) man. Berger has a great weakness for exclamation marks, for example, and too great a fondness (especially when writing about lithe and humorless women) for a sort of coy whimsy.

The titles of his pieces, on the other hand, are workmanlike and plain and as static as the captions for photographs or paintings (A Bunch of Flowers in a Glass, Two Cats in a Basket, Two Dogs Under a Rock, Sheets of Paper Laid on the Grass). Or they suggest the titles of Japanese prints (A Woman and Man Standing beside a Plum Tree).

There's a portrait of a house in Italy too (A House in the Sabine Mountains) which is both a portrait of a village and a brief history of time (Italian time). And there's also an elegy to an Alpine meadow that Berger visits after a friend's death. "The laws of probability change up there," he tells us in a brilliant and dislocating description of how and why this is so. "Sometimes the pine trees seem as if they've just stopped walking. There are nights when the Milky Way looks as close as a mosquito net.
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