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PARIS - 10 September

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A visit to John Berger

En route to the centre of France I visited John Berger in Paris.

His personal qualities never fail to surprise and illuminate. His way of listening, his way of laughing, his way of pausing, for an eternal moment, in mid-sentence, to verify, perhaps, what he is in the middle of saying, or to take a walk along another path for some seconds, admire the view.

Every encounter with him is a kind of home-coming. The hearth he presides over is warm and nourishing, there is, invariably, food on the table, a bottle of wine; there are pictures to be looked at and poems to be read, there are sadnesses to be shared and jokes to be practiced. But it is not just the eating and the talking, the grieving and the aching, belly-laughing, face-creasing joy of it…it is the feeling, for the moments in his company of recognition; of reaching for something ineffable, usually indescribable. In John’s presence the big project – whatever, however - is remembered, comes back into sharp focus.

False goals shriek their paucity, pursuit of the easy road seems dull, and the struggles seem worth it, seem honorable.

It is a kind of ‘scratch’ consciousness; the wealth of a ‘poor’ perspective; things can be put together, words can be found, buildings built, paintings painted, films made, dispatches written. It doesn’t have to cost much, it can be re-cycled from old things and memories, but it has to be true.

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Text © Sally Potter. All pictures © Adventure Pictures unless otherwise indicated