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Lost in his own diversions

A new biography of François Mitterrand shows how a man from a right-wing bourgeois background became the saviour of the French left

Mitterrand: A Study in Ambiguity by Philip Short (Bodley Head, £30) 

In his magisterial history of the French left, the journalist Jacques Julliard tells an amusing story about a meeting that he arranged, some time in the early 1970s, between François Mitterrand, then First Secretary of the Socialist Party (PS), and Günter Grass, who’d been an advisor to the German Chancellor, Willy Brandt. Grass was expatiating on the need for a “return to Bernstein,” which puzzled Mitterrand. He wondered why the German novelist should be taking such an interest in Henri Bernstein, a popular French playwright of the interwar years…

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