An interview with Alain Connes by Connes A.

By Connes A.

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I just wanted to think quietly by myself and enjoy life of course, and that was given to us in Ecole Normale. 40 GBK it was before 1969? C I entered in the fall of 66 and then came the events of 1968. GBK That was a turbulent time. C Yes 68 was a turbulent time. We had already built the right kind of mood for 68. GBK So your were in Paris in the best place and in the best time. C Yes it was a good time. I think it was ideal that we were a small group of people and our only motivation was pure thought and no talking about careers.

But then when I arrived in IHES in 76, I realized that it was not really the case. But I never had the wish to move to main stream. I really hated the arrogance of some people. My only desire was to do things that were orthogonal to what these guys were doing. This implied being as far from algebraic geometry as one could be. GBK Did you ever go to the IHES during the Grothendieck’s time? C Not at that time mostly because from the distance it looked like such an arrogant group. After all these years I finally took the time to read Grothendieck’s book “recoltes et semailles” and this allowed me to really understand his personality much better.

At least in France, if you have a position in CNRS you are allowed to do whatever you want and people are given the maximum freedom of thinking without any unhealthy social pressure to work in this or that field if one wants to secure one’s future! GBK But here in Iran our old system was modelled after the French system. In the University of Tehran long time ago most of the professors were educated in France, some before world war II and some after, but the system was not at all efficient. Nobody did anything.

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