Infamous French Writer Faces Consequences for Pedophilia

Gabriel Matzneff faces investigation for decades of awful behavior

Gabriel Matzneff in 1983
Florence Kirastinnicos/Creative Commons

Sometimes when writers fall out of favor, it’s because literary tastes have changed and the beloved works of yesterday are no longer of interest to a broad readership. Sometimes it’s because the writer has changed in some substantial way — recanting their earlier politics or denouncing earlier works. And in at least one case, it’s because the writer in question has written about their own pedophilia for 35 years and people are finally beginning to call him out for it.

No, that’s not a typo. 35 years is indeed how long the French writer Gabriel Matzneff has been writing about pedophilia — specifically, his own.

At The New York Times, Norimitsu Onishi wrote about Matzneff’s overdue fall from grace, and of the events that led to this point. Onishi sums up Matzneff’s current situation in a handful of sentences which suggest the extent of the writer’s actions:

Hiding is new for Mr. Matzneff. For decades, he was celebrated for writing and talking openly about stalking teenage girls outside schools in Paris and having sex with 8-year-old boys in the Philippines.

One of the women he abused, Vanessa Springora, wrote about her experience with Matzneff in a new book, Le Consentement (Consent). At the time, she was 14; he was 50. A December 2019 article at The Guardian noted that the memoir was opening a dialogue in French culture over the abuses of power by prominent men.

Among the consequences of Springora’s book being released was Matzneff being formally investigated for rape. It’s there that the Times article picks up: he’s set to appear in court in Paris this week. “In a widening investigation, prosecutors announced Tuesday morning that the police would start seeking witnesses to find other possible victims of Mr. Matzneff,” writes Onishi.

There are clear parallels to the cases of both Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein — including, with respect to the latter, a number of prominent politicians shielding Matzneff in bygone years. Reading about Matzneff’s current position, the most surprising thing is that it’s taken this long for his reckoning to arrive.

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