Friday, April 10, 2009

From A to X by John Berger

My On-the-ground-lion,
Did you receive my last parcel? In it I put Marlboros, Zabrano, Green mint, Coffee.

Title: From A to X

Author: John Berger
ISBN: 9781844672882
Publisher: Verso/2008
Pages: 196

Sandra of Fresh Ink Books was offering a few books on her blog for guest reviewing. I chose From A to X by John Berger and very glad that I did.

As told in the forward, John Berger came into possession of some letters. He does not wish to divulge the source. These letters have been sent from A'ida to Xavier. A'da lives in a forgotten town of Suse and her lover/husband is taken for an insurgent and is imprisoned. In those letters, we see A'ida writing about everyday things and in the routine way her life goes on. She describes people and events that are happening and also the love she feels for Xavier.

The most insignificant detail is written about. Underlying all this, is the survival of the people of Suse, who put up resistence when the need arises. There is no particular order about those letters, these are undated and somehow can be read in any order, without lessening the impact. We also find Xavier's thoughts in the form of notes at the back of her letters but never sent to A'ida.

There is no background given, no details of insurgency, or war but that in no way detracts. The stark structure only highlights the negative effect of war. A'ida letters read like poetry at a few places. Her thoughts are calm, collected and matter of fact. Her love for Xavier is not cloying at all. In no way, these letters are not love letters and yet they are. In the missives of daily doings, the passion pours forth.

At a first glance, the book might not appeal to most. Once one starts it, it completely takes one in. Do give it a chance, if you like serious reading. For A'ida, writing letters is painful, yet she has gneo on, not for Xaviar but for herself, her own sake. Reason enough to live, to survive, is it not?