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Gabriel Michel Hippolyte Matzneff (born 12 August 1936) is a left-wing intellectual French writer and self-identified and open pederast - i.e. a “lover of children” - who often describes sexual activity with young people in his work. He is the winner of the Mottard and Amic awards from the Académie française in 1987 and 2009 respectively, the Prix Renaudot essay in 2013 and the Prix Cazes in 2015.
The critic Pol Vandromme wrote in 1974 that he was "the most notable writer of his generation." In 1985, in his published diary Un Galop d'Enfer, he stated that whilst in the Philippines he would regularly engage in sexual contact with young males. He wrote that "Sometimes, I'll have as many as four boys — from 8 to 14 years old — in my bed at the same time, and I'll engage in the most exquisite lovemaking with them." Matzneff claimed to be the author of the French Petition against Age of Consent Laws, signed by many prominent French intellectuals such as Michel Foucault, Simone de Beauvoir and Guy Hocquenghem. Whether this is true is unclear, and there is no evidence to suggest that the signatories knew precisely who authored the petition, or that knowledge of the author would have changed the signatories' willingness to sign.
This page details Matzneff's life as it relates to minor-attraction.
Gabriel Matzneff: Ephebophile and Pedophile
At the end of October 1974, Gabriel Matzneff published Les Moins de seize ans (Less than sixteen years old), in the collection "Idée fixe" directed by Jacques Chancel, an essay in which he overtly discusses his sexual attraction to “young people”, i.e. minors of both sexes. He writes:
- What captivates me is not so much a specific sex as the extreme youth, that which extends from the tenth to the sixteenth year and which seems to me to be – much more than what is usually meant by this formula – the true third sex. Sixteen is not, however, a fateful number for women, who often remain desirable beyond that age. [...] On the other hand, I can't imagine myself having a sensual relationship with a boy who has passed his seventeenth year. [...] Call me bisexual or, as the ancients said, ambidextrous, I have no problem with that. But frankly I don’t think I am. In my eyes, extreme youth alone forms a particular, unique sex.
Matzneff denounces the fact that the “erotic charm of the young boy” is denied by modern Western society “which rejects the pederast in the non-being, the kingdom of shadows”. He adds further: “the two most sensual beings I have known in my life are a boy of twelve and a girl of fifteen.”
Gabriel Matzneff admits, however, the existence of “ogres”, sadistic child abusers. He has denounced the “confusion” between the criminals and all the “pederasts”, who bring “children” “the joy of being initiated into pleasure, the only 'sex education' that is not nonsense.” For the American academic Julian Bourg, Matzneff’s distinction is a desire to defend "well-meaning paedophiles like himself".
If in 1974 he wrote that French society was “rather ‘permissive’” and that his love affairs with his “marvellous fifteen-year-old mistress” – Francesca Gee, the protagonist of La Passion Francesca (Gallimard, 1998) and the Angiolina of the novel Ivre du vin perdu (La Table ronde, 1981) - “do not seem to shock anyone”, in 1994, in his preface to the fourth edition of his book, he qualified it as a “mundane suicide”, and acknowledged: “My reputation as a debauchee, a pervert, a devil dates back to Moins de seize ans.” He also deplores the fact that “the shams of the moral order have never been so wriggling and noisy. The cage in which the State, society and the family lock up minors remains hysterically locked.”
On 24 September 1981, he was criticized by the far-right weekly Rivarol, under the pen of its literary critic Robert Poulet. Matzneff wrote that "The fascist weekly then painted me as "a perverse writer, seducer and professional corrupter", who "spends half his life depraving schoolgirls, and the other half initiating children into pederasty". What can honest people do against such a scoundrel? Rivarol had the answer ready: lynching, popular justice, death.
To death threats he responded that "what was written in Rivarol had no importance whatsoever; and that it was only natural that the extreme right should speak the language of the extreme right. So I didn't phone my lawyer and I thought of other matters." In a later 1980s criticism, he describes being "struck by the similarity of the vocabulary used by anti-Semites and that used by those who call for the extermination of libertines. The ingredients are the same: jealousy, hatred, caricature to make the enemy despicable and hateful."
His open discussion of intergenerational sex became more controversial in the 1990s onwards, during which age-disparate sex and the figure of the "monstrous pedophile" was more and more openly denounced.
The French context helps explain how Matzneff could live and express his sexual preference so openly. An age of consent was introduced in France on 28 April 1832, fixed to 11 years for both sexes and later raised to 13 years in 1863. On 6 August 1942, the Vichy Government introduced a discriminative law in the Penal Code: article 334 (moved to article 331 on 8 February 1945 by the Provisional Government of the French Republic) which increased the age of consent to 21 for homosexual relations and 15 for heterosexual ones. The age of 21 was then lowered to 18 in 1974, which had become the age of legal majority. This law remained valid until 4 August 1982, when it was repealed under President François Mitterrand to equalise the age of consent at 15 years of age.
In 1990, Matzneff joined the publishing house Gallimard with the help of Philippe Sollers, who published his 1979–1982 collection of diary entries, "Les Soleils révolus", and paid monthly royalties to Matzneff until 2004.
At the end of 2019 one of his former sexual partners, Vanessa Springora — the director of Éditions Julliard publishing house — published her book Le Consentement ("Consent"), where she described how, though she was a willing participant with Matzneff at the time of their sexual relationship, she felt it was his responsibility to not engage in such activity and that the experience had negative effects on her and her life as a result. Matzneff had already penned an account of their relationship in La Prunelle de Mes Yeux (The apple of my eye), published in 1993. The writer Lisi Cori, in a 77 page privately printed 2021 work entitled La Petite Fille et le Vilain Monsieur (The Little Girl and the Naughty Man), compares Springora’s account of her liaison with Matzneff in Le Consentement with Matzneff's much earlier account in La Prunelle de Mes Yeux. The book is an impartial debunking of Springora’s embellished / narritivized version of events.
Springora's book ignited controversy over the tolerance of the literary milieu towards an open, practicing pederast, and the French age of consent being 15 at the time. This controversy led Éditions Gallimard to withdraw their marketing services for some of Matzneff's works, with other publishers to follow.
At the beginning of 2020, the Paris prosecutor's office opened an investigation against Matzneff for "rape of a minor under the age of 15". Gallimard, the leading French publishing group and Matzneff's historical publisher for 30 years, abruptly stopped marketing the author's books in early January 2020 and recalled his books from bookstores, less than two months after having published L'Amante de l'Arsenal, the last installment of Matzneff's diary. On 12 February 2020, police searched the headquarters of Éditions Gallimard looking for, among other things, unpublished manuscripts detailing Matzneff's sexual activity with minors. According to newspaper reports in October 2021, the investigation will likely be closed due to the statute of limitations.
- ↑ Le Rappel de Charleroi [The Recall of Charleroi] (in French), Éditions du Sandre, 27 April 2010, p. 271.
- ↑ Onishi, Norimitsu (11 February 2020), "A Pedophile Writer Is on Trial. So Are the French Elites", The New York Times.
- ↑ Article by Matzneff (in French).
- ↑ (Ibid).
- ↑ Most of the information above is paraphrased from an article in Le Monde, cited in Wikipedia.
- ↑ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_France#Sodomy_laws