Bento's Sketchbook


My book of the year award goes to Bento's Sketchbook, by John Berger. Here's the official blurb about Bento's Sketchbook: "The seventeenth-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza, also known as Benedict or Bento de Spinoza; spent the most intense years of his short life writing. A sporadic draughtsman, he also carried with him a sketchbook. After his sudden death, his friends rescued letters, manuscripts, notes;but no drawings."

"For years, John Berger has imagined finding Bento's sketchbook without knowing what its pages might hold, but wanting to see the drawings alongside his surviving words. When one day a friend gave Berger a beautiful, virgin sketchbook, John said, "This is Bento's!"; and he began to draw, taking his inspiration from the philosopher's vision."

"The result is Bento's Sketchbook, an exploration of the practice of drawing and a meditation on how art guides our gaze to the world: to flowers, to the human body, to the pitilessness of the new world order and the forms of resistance to it."

With moments of resounding clarity and insight, Berger reveals that which remains imprisoned and mysterious. He strives to capture the ephemeral and fleeting. "I began to make drawings prompted by something asking to be drawn." What is aloof, but speaking to us, he actively tries to present.

"We who draw do so not only to make something observed visible to others, but also to accompany something invisible to its incalculable destination."

Berger is our contemporary. As if accidentally, but that's not quite right, Berger sets out to provide a new type of book, a book with images, texts, and quotes. Images of his own construction, quotes of the great Spinoza, salted with Berger's stunning text and prose.

Further still, Berger sets out to articulate the conditions of exposition, of creation, and juxtaposition. "You lose your sense of time when drawing. You are so concentrated on scales of space." It is with Berger, that we wish to share. "I'm taking my time, as if I had all the time in the world," shares Berger.

Bobby George