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Romance: Remembrance Of Loves Past

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Ah, first love. Everyone can recall the earliest flutter of the heart, even (or especially?) French Presidents. “I disappeared each day between the noon and evening meals . . . waiting long hours ((for her)) hidden behind a sand dune,” writes Francois Mitterrand about the first time he was smitten, at 15. Mitterrand’s poignant reminiscence of pursuing — and failing to catch — an unnamed girl during a family vacation in Belgium appears in Their Very First Time, which goes on sale in France this week. The volume includes the romantic flashbacks of 95 other notables, including generals, civil servants and a race-car driver.

The world was almost deprived of Mitterrand’s tender musings. Though he agreed last spring to write about the cherished moment, he did the writerly thing and missed his deadline; 25,000 copies of the book were printed without his entry. At the last minute, Mitterrand came through with two pages of text, which were inserted into 50,000 additional copies. Love conquers all, even blown deadlines.

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