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PERUVIAN WILL SWAP POLITICS FOR THE PEN

Mario Vargas Llosa, who said he left his books to save Peru, is returning to his old life of literature and travel after losing the presidential election.

Vargas Llosa, put by exit polls from Sunday's vote at around 20 points behind his rival, Alberto Fujimori, planned to fly this week to Paris. Speaking by phone from Vargas Llosa's heavily guarded house in a middle-class Lima district, his personal secretary told Reuters the writer planned to stay in France for two weeks.Vargas Llosa, who has been translated into over 20 languages, making him one of Latin America's best-known writers, accepted defeat Sunday. Official results will not be known for weeks.

A Lima radio station said Vargas Llosa had accepted an invitation to take part in a popular literary program on French television, partly to discuss his latest book.

The novel - "Elogio a la madrastra" ("In praise of the stepmother") - caused a scandal in Peru when it was published in 1988. The book deals with the sexual awakening of a youth who seduces his stepmother.

The presidential campaign revived interest in Vargas Llosa's private life, called "incestuous" by Lima tabloid newspapers.

His first wife, Julia Urquidi, was his aunt, 10 years his senior. He turned his courtship of her into the best-selling novel "Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter," a satire of Latin America's popular soap operas.

She later wrote a book to give her side of the story about her treatment by the novelist. His second wife, Patricia, is a cousin, with whom he had three children.

The 54-year-old writer frequently told campaign rallies, "I have not left my study and my books to take anybody's job, but to save Peru."

But asked earlier this year what he would do if defeated, he said, "I will go back to my study and write."

Until Fujimori came from nowhere to capitalize support from the poor disenchanted with traditional political parties, Vargas Llosa looked certain to win the presidential election.

He faced a desperate task, with the country gripped by a 10-year Maoist guerrilla war and inflation at a 2,000 percent annual rate.

A former leftist turned admirer of Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and without political experience, Vargas Llosa went into the race at the head of a center and right-wing coalition.

During the campaign, Vargas Llosa put aside his usual Savile Row suits to wear open shirts and leather jackets, in a bid to lure slum dwellers of Lima's shantytowns to vote for him.

But he never looked comfortable talking to the poor.

He was also embarrassed by racist taunts of Fujimori by some of his supporters, which he decried.