Saturday, December 11, 2010

"G" by John Berger (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

John Berger at Wikipedia
Order G HERE or read an excerpt

INTRODUCTION: Sometime ago I stumbled by chance upon a remark that "G" by John Berger is the strangest book to have won the Man Booker prize (in 1972), not to speak of the author's acceptance speech that became notorious. I was curious and after I checked and liked the excerpt from "Amazon read inside" above, I finally got the book.

"Winner of Britain's prestigious Booker Prize, John Berger's "G". relates the story of a young man forging an energetic sexual career in Europe during the early years of this century. Berger sets his novel against the turbulent backdrop of Garibaldi and the failed revolution of Milanese workers in 1898, the Boer War, and the first flight across the Alps, making "G". a brilliant novel about the search for intimacy in history's private moments."

ANALYSIS: As storyline goes, G is a modern interpretation of the classical Don Juan story but from the perspective of several of the women involved. G. himself - the illegitimate son of a rich but strange English girl and a conventional Italian businessman - is seen through the eyes of the women, the narrator who inserts his comments here and there and only sometimes directly, this last especially in the midst of violent events at which he is essentially a bystander until they engulf him.

Hypnotic and quite un-intelligible either by the men in his circle who mostly dislike and even hate him, or by the women who are mostly fascinated despite themselves, G remains a mystery to the end with his actions confounding everyone expectations. The book is worth reading for this unexpected moments, though of course it has more strengths. The prose is just beautiful and on many occasions mesmerizing and the
introspective descriptions of people in a romantic and erotic context are among the best I've ever read.

"G" focuses on several key moments: Garibaldi's Italian saga and the early years of the modern Italian state are interlinked with G's conception and childhood, The Boer War coincides with G's sexual awakening, a 1910 aviation first with some of G's conquests as a young man and the Great War with G's apotheosis so to speak... G himself looks for the strange, in women and events, so for example one of his "conquests" is interesting for him only as long as her husband is threatening to shoot him...

The novel has an unusual structure with paragraphs linked in a whole as well as authorial insertions about this or that; overall the structure works well despite the seeming scattering in places, though it requires constant attention to detail.
The combination of personal and historical, story and authorial musings give the novel its "interesting-ness" flavor that I appreciate a lot and I am highly recommending it for a very rewarding and entertaining reading experience