by John Berger
It took the Booker Prize a few years to really establish it's identity as a purveyor of international British Empire based hits. The first Booker Prize was awarded in 1969 for Something to Answer For, by English author P.H. Newby. That was followed in 1970 by a Welsh winner (Bernice Reubens for The Elected Member. V.S. Naipaul winning in 1971 for In a Free State is perhaps the first glimmer of the future of the Booker Prize, but they immediately followed that book with this one. G. is a blend of picaresque and novelle de philosophe, with Berger taking pages away from the amorous adventures of the titular protagonist to introduce philosophical musings as they relate to sex and desire. This blend of fiction and philosophy was hardly novel in 1972, but it obviously struck a chord with the Booker Committee.
The success of G. was almost immediately eclipsed by the other book Berger published in 1972, Ways of Seeing, a classic non-fiction work about the impact of the mechanical reproduction of art on the experience of the viewer. Ways of Seeing continues to be a staple in high school and university literature courses all over the world. Unlike Ways of Seeing, G. has not maintained classic status, even as an early Booker Prize novel. In fact, when I saw G. was on the 2006 1001 Books list, I had to check to make sure it was the same John Berger.
Jacket copy to the contrary, I did not G. particularly magical or shimmery. Rather, it was like reading a novel written by a socialist who admired the books of Henry James and D.H. Lawrence before he obtained "consciousness" and then tried to integrate this love into his conscious fiction.