One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, published in 1962. During the seventies, when Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was hitting headlines, I read most of his works. Some, like The Gulag Archipelago, are long and involved, and written to make people aware of what was going on in the USSR. But one of his smaller novels hit me the hardest. Denisovich is an account of life in a forced labour camp, and therefore of Stalinist repression. The book graphically illustrates what was happening behind the iron curtain – why people were thrown into camps and what happened to them there. Probably more than his longer non-fiction accounts, this was the book that forced the West to stop ignoring violent breaches of human rights behind the “iron-curtain.” Strangely, though, what struck me about it was its optimism, its emphasis on hope. I most clearly remember the scenes when, for instance, Ivan managed to gain a cigarette and inhaled the sweet smoke deep into his lungs. It seemed to sum up how humans will always seek something to cling to and make the most of the tiniest moments of joy.