Love in the time of human networks

This story has had some impact on me, both because of its grand love and its humility. It is a grand love story since it is the story of the love affaire  of a past president of France, François Mitterrand, a very formidable, powerful politician and married man. The affaire happens with a 20-year-old girl, Anne Pingeot, an art history student 27 years his junior. Nothing new under the sky, one would say. But the fact is that this story would stop only many years later, at Mitterrand’s death. I was instantly touched by the long-lasting, secret relationship, and by the possible silent “complicity” of his own wife. Woman in the shadow for long, Anne gave also birth to a daughter who just recently came to bear her father’s last name. Mitterrand saw Anne often, and they were in love until his last days, for 40 years. “Anne, mon amour”, he wrote at the beginning. And later, “Anne chérie”,  “Nannour”, “Animour”, “Nannon aimée”.

“Journal pour Anne” by François Mitterrand (Gallimard)

They lived almost together for a while, in Paris and the South of France. Strange thing, to maintain secret a story under the nose of everybody, including the press and the political enemies. That was, in France, a private matter of the heart between two persons, lies and secrets notwithstanding, and so be it. And sure, there were no CNN nor social networks then! One could think of John Kennedy, but he was nowhere close to have had a full, secret and long love story like his French counterpart. In other places such a thing would perhaps have triggered a puritan reaction of questions, eye rolling and more lies and an impeachment request. Nor the time is anything like the present, when a woman in Anne’s position would not stay silent and possibly see the whole story with very different eyes.

I like the humility of Anne, and the utmost fidelity of this man who was a womanizer. Why did she never claim anything? How did she come to accept the whole situation? I am enthralled by her silence, without knowing anything else–I am surely elaborating from my own imagination, here.) What were they quarreling about when they did so?

How do I know this? The letters between Mitterrand and Anne have been published in France and I read an article on such a publication. Plus, there is a “Diary for Anne {Amazon link]” from the very Mitterrand, which contained poems (“Why Anne is to be loved”) and collages from newspapers, in addition to diary entries. “I met you and at once I knew I’d be leaving for a long voyage.”

While Anne, once curator for sculpture at the Louvre, still lives in the shadow. She gave the materials to the editor, but wanted nor sought book presentations or conferences. She who was a second wife, practically. Chapeau, Anne!



About Antonio Vantaggiato

Professor, web2.0 enthusiast, and didactic chef.
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