In celebration of John Berger’s 90th birthday today, I want to note one of his many wonderful qualities: namely, his encouragement of other writers and artists. In 1976, Berger sent a letter of support to Angela Carter, encouraging her to keep working on her non-fiction work The Sadeian Woman. Throughout the time she worked on the book, Carter frequently doubted its worth. As Edmund Gordon notes in his biography of her, Carter worked for many years on her Sade book, reading biographies of the man himself, alongside works by Sigmund Freud, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Lacan. Edmund records that Carter sent the first two chapters in manuscript form to John Berger in the autumn of 1975. Carter need not have worried as Berger returned them in March 1976 with not only positive notations in the margins, but also a letter encouraging her of the book’s worth:
“I believe in the book. Very much. At last somebody – and it could probably only be a woman – is intellectually active before Sade […] I have no doubt at all that you should go on with the book – and that you should give it as much time as it needs. To hell with deadlines, publishers yelling, etc. It deserves to be constructed with all the space it demands.”
This detail has been taken from Edmund Gordon’s The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography, available now from Chatto & Windus.
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