A Note From G

G.G is the hero of the novel G. by John Berger. G is a bit of a picarro wandering through Italy before the Great War and racking up sexual adventures. Along the way the narrator (presumably the aforementioned G) tells stories of the events and characters he meets (or seduces) in his travels around Italy and parts of Europe. The narrator also stops and makes editorial comments on those activities and on the developments going on in Europe.

I find that most historical fiction nowadays is best accepted less as a reflection of the past but moreover as a comment on the present, especially as the present leads into the future. In G. we have several such passages; here is just one:

There will be no revolution in Europe, the danger is past, and the reason is simple. The leaders of the working masses do not want power. They only want improvements. They have learnt the techniques of bargaining. They have to pretend to ask for more than they want to receive what they do want. From time to time they bring out the word Socialism. This word is the equivalent of temporarily breaking off negotiatons, but always with the intention of re-starting them. If we educate people properly, if we use the benefits of modern science, if we curb the power of monarchy and rely upon parliamentary government, there is no reason at all why the present social order should ever change violently. …

In the year 1910, which in this respect was in no way exceptional, over half a million Italians emigrated abroad in order to find work and avoid starvation.


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