French prosecutors open rape inquiry into author Gabriel Matzneff
New book describes sexual relationship between Matzneff and 14-year-old girlAgence France-Presse in Paris
Fri 3 Jan 2020 15.44 GMT
Paris prosecutors have opened a rape investigation into the author Gabriel Matzneff, a day after the publication of a book detailing his sexual relationship with a girl of 14 more than three decades ago.
The case has attracted huge interest in France, which is only now beginning to scrutinise decades of what are seen by some as permissive attitudes towards sexual exploitation and paedophilia.
The book, Consent, by Vanessa Springora, describes a sexual relationship Springora had with Matzneff in the mid-1980s when he was 36 years her senior.
The Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said the inquiry would focus on “rapes committed against a minor” aged under 15.
Springora, 47, now a leading publisher, describes in her book how she was seduced at the age of 14 by Matzneff, and how the relationship has left lasting scars.
Matzneff, an essay writer long admired by some in French literary circles, never made any secret of his preference for sex with adolescent girls and boys. In the mid-1970s he published a notorious essay called Les Moins de Seize Ans (The Under-16s).
Springora had indicated she did not intend to bring a criminal complaint against Matzneff, but the Paris prosecutors have opened an investigation of their own accord. Heitz said that beyond the events described by Springora, the investigation would “work to identify all other eventual victims who could have been subjected to crimes of the same nature in France or abroad”.
In France it is against the law to have a sexual relationship with anyone under the age of 15.
It is possible that investigations into Springora’s evidence could be restricted by the statute of limitations, which in 2018 was extended to 30 from 20 years for this kind of crime, but not retroactively.
France has been wrestling with a series of claims by women that they were exploited by men who often held positions of power.
In one of the most prominent recent cases, the actor Adèle Haenel accused the film director Christophe Ruggia of constantly harassing her from the age of 12 to 15. She has since filed a complaint against him.
The controversy around the French-Polish film director Roman Polanski, a fugitive from US justice since 1978, intensified when he admitted to the statutory rape of a 13 year-old, after he brought out his new film An Officer and a Spy.
Matzneff has denied any wrongdoing and in a lengthy statement sent to L’Express magazine claimed there had been an “exceptional love” between him and Springora, and that he did not “deserve the ugly portrait” that had been painted of him.
“No, this is not me, this is not what we experienced together and you know it,” said the writer, now 83, denouncing a book that he said tried to portray him as “a pervert, a manipulator and a predator”.
In 2013 Matzneff was awarded the Renaudot prize for his essays on international affairs and philosophy, an award one member of the jury has now said was a mistake.
“It is clear that he would not have got the prize for one of his intimate journals,” Frederic Beigbeder told the Parisien daily. “This prize was a blunder.”