Picks and Pans Review: Once in Europa

updated 05/11/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/11/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by John Berger

These stories, set in a rural, primitive part of France, are breathtakingly beautiful, studded with insights. The title story is about a young woman, Odile, who grows up on a farm that is being engulfed by manganese mining and a factory. Her father refuses to sell out. When he dies, she says, "I touched the truth that the virility which women look for in men is often sly, slippery, impudent. It's not grand, what they're looking for. It's cautious and cunning, just like Father was." When Odile falls in love, it's with a handsome factory worker who is a Russian orphan. He's killed in an accident and she has a son. She makes a life for them in a nearby town, working in a factory herself, and eventually falls in love again—with the first man who really loved her. In "Boris Is Buying Horses," the bluff, crude farmer is a driven man who, when he is deserted by the woman he loves, just quits eating. His neighbors find him dead. In the story "The Time of the Cosmonauts," one of the characters realizes that "When you lose your father you know there'll be no more miracles." Berger, a London art critic, moved to a peasant village in France several years ago and wrote a brilliant novel, Pig Earth. This volume of stories is the second book in what he promises will be a trilogy about remote farm life. The unpredictable people, their harsh lives, their resilience are unforgettable. (Pantheon,$14.95)

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