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One of the most widely admired writers of our time returns us to the captivating play and narrative allure of his previous novels—G. and To the Wedding among them—with a shimmering fiction drawn from chapters of his own life.
One hot afternoon in Lisbon, our narrator, John, finds his mother, who had died fifteen years earlier, seated on a park bench. “The dead don’t stay where they are buried,” she tells him. And so begins a remarkable odyssey, told in simple yet gorgeous prose and with the openness to personal and political currents that has always marked John Berger’s work.
Having promised his mother that he will henceforth pay close attention to the dead, John takes us to a woman’s bed during the 1943 bombardment of London, to a Polish market where carrier pigeons are sold, to a Paleolithic cave, to the Ritz Hotel in Madrid. Along the way, we meet an English aristocrat who always drives barefoot, a pedophile schoolmaster, a Spanish sculptor who cheats at poker, and Rosa Luxemburg, among other long-gone presences, and John lets us choose to love each of them as much as he still does.
This is a unique literary journey in which a writer’s life and work are inseparable: a fiction but not a conventional novel, a narration in the author’s voice but not a memoir, a portrait that moves freely through time and space but never loses its foothold in the present, a confession that brings with it not regret but a rich deepening of sensual and emotional understanding.
"A work of narrative art that is a fusion of all the forms he has mastered. . . . Berger once again is our guide to being truly present in life."
–The Seattle Times & Post-Intelligencer
"A wonderful memoir/meditation/fiction, a vehemently personal sojourn through space and time that is almost as beautifully unclassifiable as Calvino's Invisible Cities."
"Either an autobiographical fiction, a fictional autobiography, or maybe a hybrid of breviary, consecration, and ancestor worship; in any case, quite brilliant."
" Berger unpacks a lifetime of living and dreaming into a series of inventive travelogues. . . . This is writing as art and armchair travel for those who love to get lost in the moment."
–Kansas City Star