I have read two books this week from writers - both essentially European, both representing the humane face of the Left - which have impressed me a great deal. Elsa Triolet's Two Hundred Francs Fine (Virago) takes its title from the Maquis code for the D Day landing. Triolet, who was a sister of Lily Brink, spent the war in the Resistance and her six short stories, set in communities all over occupied France, worked in remarkable, radiant prose, and rich with humour, are more revealing of the organisation and its people than any official history. She examines not so much the achievements of the Resistance as the way people juggled their commitment to it, and to the other people in it, with their own interests.
John Berger's To The Wedding (Bloomsbury), just out in paperback, moved me to the point of tears. It is a hauntingly beautiful book constructed on a very simple plot - a family reunited in central Europe at the wedding of their daughter - and an ending that saps all one's emotional strength.
Adrian Mitchell's `Blue Coffee: Poems 1985-1996', a Poetry Book Society Choice is published by Bloodaxe.