Nobel winner Vargas Llosa recalls life in 1960s Paris

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Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa, who Thursday won the Nobel prize for literature, lived in Paris in the 1960s where he says he benefited from the "intellectual splendour" of the city.

"Since I was little I dreamt of Paris," he told AFP in an interview granted in October 2009 at his house in Madrid where he spends half of the year.

"I was convinced that if I did not make it to Paris, I would never be a writer, that I had to live in Paris because Paris was the centre of culture, of literature."

The 74-year-old, whose works include "The Time of the Hero" and "Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter" arrived in Paris in 1959 where he worked at Agence France-Presse for a year and a half and later for French public television.

"I have great memories of those years, from both the literary and cultural point of view. They were very interesting years," he said.

"It was still a time of great intellectual splendour in France. All the great writers of that generation were alive," he added, citing French writers Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus as examples.

"I enjoyed the atmosphere, the intellectual environment. Paris was still a very open city, you felt at home as soon as you arrived."

Vargas Llosa, who came close to being elected president of Peru in 1990, recalled with fondness the political effervescence of those early years of the founding of France's Fifth Republic, which replaced a parliamentary government with a semi-presidential system.

"There was a political controversy at a very high level, there were adversaries to the Fifth Republic. Politics still attracted France's great talents," he said.

Vargas Llosa said French novelist and former culture minister Andre Malraux "was the most extraordinary political orator who I have ever heard."

"I remember some absolutely dazzling speeches by Malraux, such as the speech which he delivered in front of the Pantheon when the ashes of (French resistance fighter) Jean Moulin arrived, what a moving speech!"

The author, who began his professional writing career as a newspaper and radio journalist while still a student in Peru said he moved to London at the end of the 1960s "because he wanted to live in England."

"There was a centre which before was in Paris that had moved to London with the psychedelic revolution, the hippies," he said.

Disappointed by his defeat and upset at the dictatorial turn of then president Alberto Fujimori's 1990-2000 regime, Vargas Llosa took on Spanish nationality in 1993 -- a step that angered many Peruvians.

© 2010 AFP

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