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He went to the Lycée Janson de Sailly in Paris and studied history and geography at the Paris West University Nanterre La Défense, and political science at Sciences Po. He taught economics, history and geography at EABJM from 1968 to 1971. In 1978, he was a film critic at J'informe. From 1971 to 1986, he ran several art film cinemas in Paris (Olympic Palace, Entrepôt and Olympic-Entrepôt). He also had roles in a number of films, and in the 1980s was active as a producer and director in TV productions.
Mitterrand, who is openly bisexual, writes a monthly column for Têtu.
The Bad Life
Mitterrand's autobiographical novel The Bad Life (French: La mauvaise vie) was a best seller in 2005. In the book he details his "delight" whilst visiting the male brothels of Bangkok, and writes, "I got into the habit of paying for boys ... The profusion of young, very attractive and immediately available boys put me in a state of desire I no longer needed to restrain or hide." At the time of its release Mitterrand was applauded for his honesty, but he has had to defend his writings after he publicly defended Roman Polanski when Polanski was detained in Switzerland on an American request for extradition for raping a thirteen-year-old girl.
On 5 October 2009, Marine Le Pen of the French National Front Party quoted sections of the book on French television, accusing him of having sex with underage boys and engaging in "sex tourism", demanding that Mitterrand resign his position as culture minister. Amongst others he was also criticised by the Socialist Party spokesman Benoît Hamon, who stated: "As a minister of culture he has drawn attention to himself by defending a film maker and he has written a book where he said he took advantage of sexual tourism. To say the least, I find it shocking." On the other hand, some conservatives supported Mitterrand, and a close aide to Nicolas Sarkozy said the French President backed his Culture Minister, describing the controversy around him as "pathetic".
Mitterrand insisted the book is not an autobiography, the publisher describes it as a "novel inspired by autobiography" and the BBC refers to it as "autobiographical novel". In his own defence Mitterrand stated, "Each time I was with people who were my age, or who were five years younger - there wasn't the slightest ambiguity - and who were consenting", and that he uses the term "boys" loosely, both in his life and in the book. He also declared, "I condemn sexual tourism, which is a disgrace. I condemn paedophilia, which I have never in any way participated in."