Thursday, January 12, 2017
Who is the hero of John Berger's novel G.?
So, continuing w/ the weirdness of John Berger's 1972 novel, G., the last section of the book is set in Trieste at the outset of the first World War, when Trieste was a city up for grabs in a struggle between Italy and the Austrian states. What? You didn't know that? You didn't even know where Trieste is or was? That's the way Berger works - he chooses these obscure geographic locations and long-forgotten (even in 1972, more so now) moments in world history and writes about these events and locales as if we all should know what he's talking about. That shows either his clumsiness, his arrogance, or his shrewd use of research, you pick. I don't really care, I kind of like learning about these hidden moments in history - if the novelist tells the story well. What's going on throughout this novel, however, is an oscillation between the world events and the personal events in the life of G., a self-described Don Juan, and in this final section of the novel we move back and forth between a resistance group, a group of Italian spies, a political prisoner who was arrested in a border crossing - and G. in a wealthy Austrian's drawing room trying to seduce the wife. As w/ all the women he meets, she pretty much flings herself at him (male fantasy) and the husband acquiesces (ridiculous). G.'s flirtations and seductions in my view don't add to the drama of the story - they detract, they make the world-political events seem and feel incidental and trivial, rather than the reverse. His attitude, which I hope is not Berger's attitude, toward women is one of objectification and subjection, and his attitude toward men is one of contempt. I believe the true hero of the novel is the one husband who took out a pistol and shot G., injuring his shoulder (and adding to his insouciance and allure, I guess).