Wednesday 28 January 2009

From A to X

My second book of the year was 'From A to X - a story in letters' by John Berger. Sometimes I request books from the library on the spur of the moment, when I read something on the internet or in the paper, and it just catches my interest. This title intrigued me. It is a book of questions, and no answers. There is no story, no plot, just ideas and experiences. The book is made up of letters from A'ida. There are no replies, but in places Xavier has written thoughts at the end of the letters. Each letter is different; some talk about her life, some are reminiscences, some imagine the future. There cannot be a future because Xavier is in prison, but she hopes, for them and for their country. The setting is deliberately vague. I imagined eastern Europe for some reason, but it could be anywhere, so many parts of the world have experienced political unrest and repression. I grew very attached to A'ida, she is strong and resilient, kind and fiercely loyal. You don't see Xavier so clearly. She describes something of their relationship and life together, but because you never get his thoughts you have only a superficial impression. The fact that they are separated is the theme that runs through the book, sometimes it is raw emotion that you feel really intensely, sometimes it just sits in the background of her tales of everyday life. What I liked about the writing is the complete lack of pretension. He creates a whole world that feels so real, with people you care about. In spite of the need I usually have to get closure from a book this one leaves you hanging. You accept that you cannot know if their story has an end. But it leaves you hoping, because they do.
I will definitely be searching out other things by John Berger.

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