Literary Hub

John Berger Has Some Thoughts About Smoking

There’s never smoke without fire.

This was first said by somebody suggesting a rumor might be well-founded.

Words in the media today often function like a smoke-screen for hiding flames.

The government of North Korea has just announced that they have tested an H-bomb fired from a submarine. Endless discussion about whether this is true or a bluff.

No reflections around the fact that in the oceans of the world there are about 60 fully armed nuclear submarines awaiting instructions day and night.

Whilst smoking together we exchanged our views on the world.


We smoked between games of tennis.


We smoked in restaurants.


Smoking became a solitary perversion.

Persistent smokers, banished from public places both indoors and outdoors, drifted towards the same hideouts, and were happy to encounter one another as outlaws.

Just time for a smoke and a story…


From Smoke, text by John Berger, illustrations by Selçuk Demirel, courtesy NYRB.

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