The New York Times
From A to X: A Story in Lettersby John Berger
In the dusty, ramshackle town of lives A’ida. Her insurgent lover Xavier has been imprisoned. Resolute, sensuous and tender, A’ida’s letters to the man she loves tell of daily events in the town, and of its motley collection of inhabitants whose lives flow through hers. But the area is under threat, and as a faceless power inexorably encroaches
In the dusty, ramshackle town of lives A’ida. Her insurgent lover Xavier has been imprisoned. Resolute, sensuous and tender, A’ida’s letters to the man she loves tell of daily events in the town, and of its motley collection of inhabitants whose lives flow through hers. But the area is under threat, and as a faceless power inexorably encroaches from outside, so the smallest details and acts of humanity — an intimate dance, a shared meal — assume for A’ida a life-affirming significance, acts of resistance against the forces that might otherwise extinguish them.
From A to X is a powerful exploration of how humanity affirms itself in struggle: imagining a community which, besieged by economic and military imperialism, finds transcendent hope in the pain and fragility, vulnerability and sorrow of daily existence.
The New York Times
Berger is a Booker prize winner, art critic, journalist, essayist and the acclaimed author of Ways of Seeing. His latest is an epistolary novel that concerns two characters: Xavier, the alleged founder of a terrorist cell, and A'ida, his lover. The letters are A'ida's, written to Xavier over the course of his years of imprisonment and squirreled away in a corner of Xavier's small cell. They are adorned by Xavier's margin notes (ranging from political exclamations to quotations about love and longing) and A'ida's sketches. Through A'ida's letters, the reader gets a taste of daily life in the provincial village of Suse, where she works in a pharmacy. Though she puts on a happy face for Xavier, tanks and helicopters haunt the margins, and she drops coded hints that she may still be involved in the resistance. The letters are organized idiosyncratically, but by virtue of their disorder, Berger tanks the standard-issue long-distance love plot and instead provides a rich narrative that winds together the toll on a town besieged and of isolation on a romance; it's a paean to protest, both political and romantic. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This short novel by Booker Prize-winning novelist Berger (G) takes the form of letters written by a woman to her jailed lover. A powerful sense of loss and longing hovers over these missives as A'ida describes to Xavier events in the town of Suse, including her work at the local pharmacy. Outbursts about the oppressive tactics of the regime that has upended both A'ida's and Xavier's lives emerge only occasionally and only in letters that she won't mail since the censors would never allow them to be posted. Xavier, whom she is not permitted to marry and is thus not able to visit, scrawls cryptic political messages on the backs of her letters. We come to recognize his heroism from these comments and from some references made by A'ida. But he is not the fully rounded character that she is. In her own quiet way, A'ida is a hero, too, steadfast and loyal to the man she will probably never see again. Deeply affecting is the portrait of her love, one of the few aspects of their lives that cannot be touched by tyranny. Recommended for all libraries.
“Wrought with a miniaturist’s precision.”—New York Times
“John Berger has given us an exquisite thing. This is a book of controlled rage sculpted with tools of tenderness and a searing political vision.”—Arundhati Roy
“From A to X is one of the most tender and poignant books I have read for many years. Its power rests in its economy of means, its account of enduring love surviving oppression. It demonstrates that however foul the forces oppressing us, love and the human spirit are indestructible.”—Harold Pinter
“The record of one restless, committed, brilliant consciousness; a late showcase of astonishing range and depth, which should be read as an epic poem or lyrical essay as much as a novel.”—Melissa Benn, Independent
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Meet the Author
Storyteller, novelist, essayist, screenwriter, dramatist and critic, John Berger is one of the most internationally influential writers of the last fifty years. His many books include Ways of Seeing, the fiction trilogy Into Their Labours, Here Is Where We Meet, the Booker Prize-winning novel G, Hold Everything Dear, the Man Booker–longlisted From A to X, and A Seventh Man.
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