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.

More from Literary Hub

Literary Hub6 min read
The Uncertain Future of Sweden’s Floating Libraries
On a cold morning in a port a few miles outside Stockholm, a group of boys who don’t usually read are huddled around a table of books. “Is there any more coffee?” one of them shouts. The boys live on the Swedish island of Möja, a quiet, green island
Literary Hub9 min read
Billy Kahora on Binyavanga Wainaina’s Groundbreaking Work
I had two first meetings with Binyavanga Wainaina. The first was when he joined Carey Francis House (CF) in Lenana School as an incoming Fifth Former in the old A-level system. Binya turned CF into the house that produced prize-winning house plays in
Literary Hub2 min read
On The Labels Attached To Friday Black And The Booksellers Responsible For Its Success
Friday Black has been described by Tommy Orange as “a dystopian story collection as full of violence as it is of heart.” On this episode, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah shares with Mitchell why his book is “a lot about family, trying and figuring out ways