Hold Everything Dear: Dispatches on Survival and Resistance

Hold Everything Dear: Dispatches on Survival and Resistance

by John Berger

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From one of the most impassioned of writers of our time, this powerful collection of essays offers a stark portrait of post-9/11 realities. John Berger occupies a unique position in the international cultural landscape: artist, filmmaker, poet, philosopher, novelist, and essayist, he is also a deeply thoughtful political activist. In Hold Everything Dear, his…  See more details below


From one of the most impassioned of writers of our time, this powerful collection of essays offers a stark portrait of post-9/11 realities. John Berger occupies a unique position in the international cultural landscape: artist, filmmaker, poet, philosopher, novelist, and essayist, he is also a deeply thoughtful political activist. In Hold Everything Dear, his artistry and activism meld in an attempt to make sense of the current state of our world. Berger analyzes the nature of terrorism and the profound despair that gives rise to it. He writes about the homelessness of millions who have been forced by poverty and war to live as refugees. He discusses Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Serbia, Bosnia, China, Indonesia-anyplace where people are deprived of the most basic of freedoms. Berger powerfully acknowledges the depth of suffering around the world and suggests actions that might finally help bring it to an end.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Slender, slight collection of aphoristic essays by British art critic, novelist and political activist Berger (Here is Where We Meet, 2006, etc.). "Are you still a Marxist?" Berger, echoing an interlocutor, asks in one piece later in the book. He answers in the affirmative, but not before writing, gnomically, "Every day people follow signs pointing to some place which is not their home but a chosen destination" (yes, for that way lies London, the Pantheon, and points beyond) and urging, "The consumer is essentially somebody who feels, or is made to feel, lost, unless he or she is consuming" (oh, blessed circularity!). The question, the answers, are characteristic of Berger; the approach is of signal interest when approaching, say, a piece by Tatlin or Chagall or Van Gogh, much less so when brought to bear on literal matters of life and death, for does anyone but Harold Pinter need take notice when such observations as "What makes a terrorist is, first, a form of despair" are offered for public-yes-consumption? Berger wrestles with the obvious questions: Why the despair? (Living in a refugee camp tends to focus the mind.) Why do they hate us? (That requires a few paragraphs.) Why are terrorists so willing to blow themselves up? (To blow us up.) But then, grammar be damned, "if a kamikaze martyr could see with their own eyes, before he or she died, the immediate consequences of their explosion, they might well reconsider the appropriateness of their steadfast decision." Concluding, in good Marxist manner, that the pursuit of profit is a pitiless business and that corporations "consistently wage their own ‘jihad' against any target that opposes the maximization of their profits," Bergerpaints himself into a distant corner of irrelevance, even if he does get off a few good zingers. Why is the publication date timed for the sixth anniversary of 9/11? For the maximization of profits, of course.
From the Publisher
“Illuminating. . . . A thoughtful meditation on the divisive ethos of power.” —Los Angeles Times“Profound reflections on a world that has lost its values.” —Shepard Express“Boldly stated . . . Classic. . . . [Berger speaks] to what we owe the dead and the yet-to-be-born.” —Santa Cruz Sentinel"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."—Susan Sontag

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Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Random House
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Wanting Now
(April 2006)

The world has changed. Information is being communicated differently. Misinformation is developing its techniques. On a world scale emigration has become the principal means of survival. The national state of those who had suffered the worst genocide in history has become, militarily speaking, fascist. National states in general have been politically downsized and reduced to the role of vassals serving the new world economic order. The visionary political vocabulary of three centuries has been garbaged. In short, the economic and military global tyranny of today has been established.

At the same time new methods of resistance to this tyranny are being discovered. Rebels now have to be not so much obedient as self-reliant. Within the growing opposition centralized authority has been replaced by spontaneous co-operation. Long-term programmes are replaced by urgent alliances over specific issues. Civil society is learning and beginning to practice the guerrilla tactics of political resistance.

Today the desire for justice is multitudinous. This is to say that struggles against injustice, struggles for survival, for self-respect, for human rights, should never be considered merely in terms of their immediate demands, their organizations, or their historical consequences. They cannot be reduced to ‘movements’. A movement describes a mass of people collectively moving towards a definite goal, which they either achieve or fail to achieve. Yet such a description ignores, or does not take into account, the countless personal choices, encounters, illuminations, sacrifices, new desires, griefs and, finally, memories, which the movement brought about, but which are, in the strict sense, incidental to that movement.

The promise of a movement is its future victory; whereas the promises of the incidental moments are instantaneous. Such moments include, life-enhancingly or tragically, experiences of freedom in action. (Freedom without actions does not exist.) Such moments—as no historical ‘outcome’ can ever be—are transcendental, are what Spinoza termed eternal, and they are as multitudinous as the stars in an expanding universe.

Not all desires lead to freedom, but freedom is the experience of a desire being acknowledged, chosen and pursued. Desire never concerns the mere possession of something, but the changing of something. Desire is a wanting. A wanting now. Freedom does not constitute the fulfilment of that wanting, but the acknowledgement of its supremacy.

Today the infinite is beside the poor.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Meet the Author

John Berger, born in London in 1926, is a novelist, storyteller, poet, screenwriter, and art critic. He is the author of many works of fiction and nonfiction, including To the Wedding, the Into Their Labours trilogy, About Looking, Ways of Seeing, and G., for which he won the Booker Prize. Berger lives in a small rural community in France.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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