Life imitates art for Mitterrand's daughter

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The Independent Online
WHEN her father became President of the Republic, she was seven. She must have seen him on the television practically every day of her life for the next 14 years. She was not allowed to tell her school-friends who he was; or who she was. Mazarine Pingeot, 23, the illegitimate, long- hidden but much cherished daughter of Francois Mitterrand, will give her first television interview on Sunday.

Ms Pingeot has recorded an hour-long programme for TF1, the most-watched French television channel, to mark the publication tomorrow of her first novel, entitled imaginatively Premier Roman (First Novel). She is already being boosted by her publisher, and by the French press, as the next Francoise Sagan or Simone de Beauvoir.

In her conversation with Michel Field, one of the top current affairs interviewers on French television, Ms Pingeot talks for the first time about her clandestine childhood and her relationship with her father. She also speaks about her experiences since her existence - long rumoured - was revealed by Paris Match in 1995, near to the end of President Mitterrand's life.

Her 270-page novel, published by Julliard, is the story of a love affair between Victor and Agathe, two brilliant, unconventional young students at one of the leading French places of higher education, the Ecole Normale Superieure.

Ms Pingeot has, herself, recently graduated in philosophy from this institution. It was her father's ambition that she should be a writer.

She has already started on her second novel. Her editor, Betty Mialet, compares her first book to Bonjour Tristesse, the novel published by the 18-year-old Francoise Sagan in 1954: "Both have found the same light tone of voice to describe the depths of feeling of youth."

First Novel is said to be partly auto-biographical, though the heroine's father is not a politician but a writer. Here is a brief extract: "Agathe was, on the whole, a frivolous person, attracted by all forms of pleasure, at once sensual and intellectual. Victor was sentimental, illogical, perhaps romantic. What they shared was a love of creating new worlds, of inventing rules, which combined purity with pleasure, freedom with excess ..."

The novel describes a journey through Europe by the love-struck pair. To avoid a media feeding frenzy when the novel appears, Ms Pingeot has set out - life imitating art - to an undisclosed foreign destination.