5 Feet of Fury

John Berger (1926–2017)

Berger’s Ways of Seeing (1972) blew my mind when I read it in college, and I doubt a month has gone by since when I haven’t thought of it.

(While trying to shove his ultra-radical Marxism — he gave half his Booker prize winnings to the British Black Panthers — out of my mind.)


…he is clearly the kind of Marxist who would be instantly dismissed from any Marxist organisation he joined.


As the host of “Ways of Seeing,” with his shaggy hair and tieless, loud-patterned shirt, Mr. Berger was a public intellectual who became a countercultural celebrity in 1970s Britain, where the BBC kept the four-part series in frequent rotation. The book became an art-school standard on both sides of the Atlantic.

He set the insurrectionary tone in the show’s opening sequence, taking a box cutter to a mock-up of Botticelli’s “Venus and Mars” and slicing out the portrait of Venus.