Elise's Reviews > To the Wedding

To the Wedding by John Berger
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's review
Jun 13, 2012

really liked it
Read from June 13 to 15, 2012

I first encountered John Berger when a poetry professor assigned "Ways of Seeing." "To the Wedding" similarly is a novella that relies heavily on the powers of imagery and perspective; indeed, the story is first narrated by a blind merchant. I read another review of "To the Wedding" that describes the story as cinematic, and I'd agree with that - I don't know enough about movie directors to draw an apt comparison, but I hope it will be sufficient to say that it could be a movie shown at IFC. The way the story jumps around in time and narration would probably not appeal to most readers (it even took me awhile to get used to), but I found that Berger's style forced me to read slowly and appreciate each subtle image, a similar experience to reading poetry (perhaps why I was first assigned to read Berger in a poetry class).

The overarching narrative involves a number of characters who ultimately make their way to a wedding at a small village on the Italian coast. The celebration is tinged with both joy and sadness; nevertheless, it's a perfect wedding, one relying more on simplicity than grandeur. The guests dine on fresh-caught eel and roast lamb and a cake decorated with sugared orange blossoms. And near the end of the night:

"The wedding guests are becoming a single animal who has fed well. A strange creature to find in a widow's orchard, a creature half mythical, like a satyr with thirty heads or more. Probably as old as man's discovery of fire, this creature never lives more than a day or two and is only reborn when there's something else to celebrate. Which is why feasts are rare. For those who become the creature, it's important to find a name to which it answers whilst alive, for only then can they recall, in their memory afterwards, how, for a while, they lost themselves in its happiness."

Wow! I totally want our wedding creature to be like this! I think it will probably have closer to 100 heads, but no matter.
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