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Published Date : December 11, 2012
“Behind my right eye hangs a burlap cloth; behind my left eye there’s a mirror. . . Before the burlap the visible remains indifferent; before the mirror it begins to play.”
What happens when an art critic loses some of his sight to cataracts? What wonders are glimpsed once vision is restored? In this impressionistic essay written in the spirit of Montaigne, John Berger, whose treatises on seeing have shaped cultural and media studies for four decades, records the effects of cataract removal operations on each of his eyes. The result is an illuminated take on perception. Berger ponders how we can become accustomed to a loss of sense until a dulled world becomes the norm, and describes the sudden richness of reawakened sight with acute attention to sensory detail. This wise little book beckons us to pay close attention to our own senses and wonder at their significance as we follow Berger’s journey into a more vivid, differentiated way of seeing. Demirel’s witty illustrations complement the text, creating a mini-world where eyes take on whimsical lives of their own. The result is a collaborative collectors’ piece perfect for every reader’s bedside table.
“Cataract from Greek kataraktes, meaning waterfall or portcullis, an obstruction that descends from above.’ Notes and reflections by one of our great soothsayers of seeing, John Berger, on the minor miracle of cataract surgery. With drawings by the Turkish artist Selçuk Demirel. ‘If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.” —William Blake
JOHN BERGER (author), SELÇUK DEMIREL (illustrator)
Storyteller, 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 (1972), the Booker-prizewinning novel G (1972), Here is Where We Meet (2005), About Looking (2009) and, most recently, Bento’s Sketchbook (2011) He lives in a small village community in France.
Selçuk Demirel was born in Artvin, Turkey, in 1954. He trained as an architect and moved to Paris in 1978, where he still lives. His illustrations and books have appeared in many prominent European and American publications.
Praise for Cataract:
“Four decades after teaching a generation to fine-tune the optic nerve in Ways of Seeing (1972), John Berger underwent (successful) binocular cataract surgery. Fortunately he has recorded his reunion with the joys and sheer physicality of observation in the monograph Cataract, illustrated with scintillating wit by Selçuk Demirel.”—Aesop Online
Praise for John Berger:
“In contemporary English letters John Berger 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