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John Berger in Metz: Three Letters

A Letter to Timothy Neat, 22.06.2002

John Berger

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122/06/02, Quincy.

2Dearest Tim—I have so much to thank you for—and the “so much” is like the Horizon where you flew Gramsci and like the hare, the mountain hare, go free! Thank you for the letters, the wonderful photos—in which the horizon becomes the hem of your banner, the ancient and new poems, and now “Closing the Circle” and in the circle an astonishing wink at me! You give me far far more than I deserve—but then that is in the nature of gifts, that’s what surreptitiously and shiningly makes gifts gifts. Thank you, Tim.

3It would be lovely to meet and hang poems level in the air.

4Two days ago I went with Nella to Metz in Lorraine—the once great steel town. Ah! The proletarian legions and their kindness (the last quality you first associate with skilled workers), but now that they have gone, kindness has gone too. If I think of that quality of kindness I smell acetylene, coke, sweat, coal dust, woodbines and beer. Anyway, in the renowned Gothic cathedral there—there are sculptures of hanging rags (curtains) if you wish, like this: [Drawing of 3 Sack-like Hangings] and with these stone cloths we can wipe the lips of every great poem we know. I pass you one.

5With my love



7The light evening
Like your fingers at night
Never stops

8By the unlit traffic-light
Our laughter crosses the road

9Under your arms

  • 1 Our many thanks to Timothy Neat for allowing the publication of Berger’s personal letter to him. Th (...)

10Later in the peach stone’s
Red hammock
We’ll lie in the halved fruit
The knife our two names.

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1 Our many thanks to Timothy Neat for allowing the publication of Berger’s personal letter to him. The poem inserted in the letter was published with slight variations from Mr Neat’s transcription, under the title ‘Street Scene,’ in John Berger, Collected Poems (Ripon: Smokestack Books, 2014, 126). We reproduce it as such here, as requested by Yves Berger and the Berger Estate.

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John Berger, « A Letter to Timothy Neat, 22.06.2002 »Études britanniques contemporaines [En ligne], 65 | 2023, mis en ligne le 01 octobre 2023, consulté le 18 juin 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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