Book #07

The Red Tenda of Bologna by John Berger

'It's an improbable city, Bologna - like one you might walk through after you have died.'

A dreamlike meditation on memory, food, paintings, a fond uncle and the improbable beauty of Bologna, from the visionary thinker and art critic.

I was concerned this was going to be a dusty travel memoir - something I have very little appetite for. This offering from Berger, however, was a beautiful surprise in its depth and emotion, his descriptions of Bologna evoking a true sense of the city, and the people within it.

The format was perfect - small vignettes detailing Berger’s travels, thoughts, and deep feelings, as he travelled through the city in memory of his beloved uncle. It felt like an amble - a slow wander through the streets - as we noticed everything together. Although he describes the city’s views, sounds, and smells, he also focuses on the people - the little girl with the tiger balloon being a personal favourite.

His prose is quite simply beautiful, like this moment in a fabric shop when he’s purchasing the famed red tenda -

“There are two women before me. One is touching the velvet, over which she’s hesitating, as if it were her daughter’s just washed hair.”

Isn’t it gorgeous?

I loved this one, truly. Berger makes clear how his uncle changed his life, and almost invites us to consider those who have done the same for us. As I said, a beautiful surprise. This one is a little treasure.