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US News A Pedophile Writer Is on Trial. So Is the French Elite.

03:56  14 february  2020
03:56  14 february  2020 Source:   msn.com

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So Is the French Elite .For decades, Gabriel Matzneff wrote openly of his pedophilia , protected by powerful people in publishing, journalism, politics and business. Now cast out, he attacks their "cowardice" in a rare interview. The French writer Gabriel Matzneff in the Italian Riviera this month.

He has long boasted of his sexual encounters with boys and girls.Credit Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times. A Pedophile Writer Is on Trial . The support of Mr. Matzneff reflected an enduring French contradiction: a nation that is deeply egalitarian yet with an elite that often distinguishes itself

a person standing next to a body of water: The French writer Gabriel Matzneff in the Italian Riviera this month. He has long boasted of his sexual encounters with underage partners. © Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times The French writer Gabriel Matzneff in the Italian Riviera this month. He has long boasted of his sexual encounters with underage partners.

PARIS — Gabriel Matzneff, the French writer under investigation for his promotion of pedophilia, was holed up this month inside a luxury hotel room on the Italian Riviera, unable to relax, unable to sleep, unable to write.

He was alone and in hiding, abandoned by the same powerful people in publishing, journalism, politics and business who had protected him weeks earlier. He went outside only for solitary walks behind dark sunglasses, and was startled when I tracked him down in a cafe mentioned in his books.

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The New York Times. A Pedophile Writer Is on Trial . The support of Mr. Matzneff reflected an enduring French contradiction: a nation that is deeply egalitarian yet with an elite that often distinguishes itself from ordinary people through a different code of morality, a different set of rules, or

For decades, Gabriel Matzneff wrote openly of his pedophilia , protected by powerful people in publishing, journalism, politics and business. Gabriel Matzneff, the French writer under investigation for his promotion of pedophilia , was holed up this month inside a luxury hotel room on the Italian

“I feel like the living dead, a dead man walking, walking on the lungomare,” he said, referring in Italian to the seafront promenade, in a long conversation, after some persuading.

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.

Pierre Berge et al. posing for the camera: Mr. Matzneff, right, in Paris in 1990 with the French business tycoon Pierre Bergé, center, and Harlem Désir. © Pierre Guillaud/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Mr. Matzneff, right, in Paris in 1990 with the French business tycoon Pierre Bergé, center, and Harlem Désir. He was invited to the Élysée Palace by President François Mitterrand and socialized with the far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen. He benefited from the largess of the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, the business tycoon Pierre Bergé.

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For decades, Gabriel Matzneff wrote openly of his pedophilia , protected by powerful people in publishing, journalism, politics and business. Now cast out, he attacks their “cowardice” in a rare interview. Today at 5:05 AM www.nytimes.com. 0 575 0 0 0.

But Mr. Matzneff has been summoned to appear in a Paris court on Wednesday, accused of actively promoting pedophilia through his books. Mr. Matzneff could face up to five years in prison, yet the case is also an implicit indictment of an elite that furthered his career and swatted away isolated voices calling for his arrest.

In a widening investigation, prosecutors announced Tuesday morning that the police would start seeking witnesses to find other possible victims of Mr. Matzneff.

Gabriel Matzneff, French author © Getty Gabriel Matzneff, French author The support of Mr. Matzneff reflected an enduring French contradiction: a nation that is deeply egalitarian yet with an elite that often distinguishes itself from ordinary people through a different code of morality, a different set of rules, or at least believing it necessary to defend those who did.

A decade ago, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was forced out as the leader of the International Monetary Fund after being accused of sexually assaulting a hotel housekeeper. A supporter dismissed it as “trussing a domestic,” a comment that recalled France’s feudal past.

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PIERRE VERDRAGER, a sociologist, describing a different code of morality among members of the French elite that allowed them to applaud the writer Gabriel Matzneff despite his open pedophilia .

Mr. Onishi was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 2015 for The Times’s coverage of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Mr. Onishi was born in Japan, grew up in Montreal, and is fluent in French and Japanese. He is a graduate of Princeton University.

“We’re in a very egalitarian society where there is a pocket of resistance that actually behaves like an aristocracy,” said Pierre Verdrager, a sociologist who has studied pedophilia.

a group of people looking at a book shelf filled with books: A bookstore in Paris. From Voltaire to Hugo to Zola to Sartre, the writer has been regarded as sacred in France. © Dominique Faget/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images A bookstore in Paris. From Voltaire to Hugo to Zola to Sartre, the writer has been regarded as sacred in France. Mr. Matzneff appealed to the elite’s traditional appreciation of the transgressive figure. Graying leftist intellectuals saw in his books the enduring free spirit of the May ’68 countercultural revolution. A new generation of right-leaning literary figures came to regard him as a symbol of anti-political correctness.

But now Mr. Matzneff and his backers are being held to account by a new movement: the freeing of female voices long suppressed by powerful men.

The reckoning came last month with the publication of “Le Consentement” (“Consent”) by Vanessa Springora, the first testimony by one of the writer’s underage victims.

Though the book held no new revelations about Mr. Matzneff’s sexual history, it triggered an abrupt cultural shift in France.

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A Celebrated French Writer Has Been Charged With Pedophilia . “This is the Me Too of the French publishing world,” François Busnel, host of La Grande Librairie, said, per the New York Times. “A voice has been set free in an environment, the French literary environment, which is male chauvinist, quite

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“This is the #MeToo of the French publishing world,” said François Busnel, the host of “La Grande Librairie,” France’s most important television literary program. “A voice has been set free in an environment, the French literary environment, which is male chauvinist, quite misogynistic, and which stays silent — omertà.”

Francois Mitterrand et al. standing in a parking lot: The former President of France, François Mitterrand, center, was an admirer from the time Mr. Matzneff’s first book came out in 1965. © Michel Lambert/Gamma-Rapho, via Getty Images The former President of France, François Mitterrand, center, was an admirer from the time Mr. Matzneff’s first book came out in 1965. Mr. Matzneff’s fall, if late in coming, was swift. His three publishers dropped him. The head of the National Book Center said that Mr. Matzneff would lose a prestigious, seldom-awarded lifetime stipend. The Culture Ministry is re-examining two state honors conferred on him in the mid-1990s. He lost his column in the magazine Le Point. Prosecutors opened an investigation.

The statute of limitations is believed to have expired in the case involving Ms. Springora. But, in addition to the charge of promoting pedophilia, Mr. Matzneff could face criminal charges for more recent sex acts with minors in France or abroad.

From his hiding place on the Italian Riviera, Mr. Matzneff rejected the accusations of wrongdoing.

“Who are they to judge?” he said. “These associations of the virtuous, how do they sleep, what do they do in bed and who do they sleep with, and their secret, repressed desires?”

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Gabriel Matzneff, the French writer who for decades made no secret about being a pedophile , has been charged with promoting the sexual abuse of Matzneff’s trial date has been set for September of next year, though prosecutors will also investigate members of the French elite who helped foster

A Pedophile Writer Is on Trial . So Is the French Elite . For decades, Gabriel Matzneff wrote openly of his pedophilia , protected by powerful people. Now cast out, he attacks their “cowardice” in a rare interview.

The Writer as Icon

Gabriel Matzneff, French writer. © Getty Gabriel Matzneff, French writer. Mr. Matzneff’s story is one, many have said, that could happen “only in France.”

From Voltaire to Hugo to Zola to Sartre, the writer has been regarded as sacred in France. In Paris, countless streets named for writers serve as a physical reminder of their outsize influence. Every Wednesday, a major network devotes 90 live minutes of prime time to discussing books on “La Grande Librairie.”

Although not one of France’s greatest writers, Mr. Matzneff still benefited fully from this tradition. He wrote nearly 50 novels, essay collections and diaries that never would have made it to bookstores in an industry more concerned with the bottom line.

a screenshot of a cell phone screen with text: Mr. Mitterrand wrote an article praising Mr. Matzneff that was published in the magazine Matulu in July 1986. © Provided by The New York Times Mr. Mitterrand wrote an article praising Mr. Matzneff that was published in the magazine Matulu in July 1986. French publishers dutifully accepted even diaries that sometimes overlapped and amounted to little beyond bookkeeping. But those works also hold meticulous details about the individuals who helped him and the teenage girls he seduced, including Ms. Springora.

Last month, suddenly emboldened, prosecutors raided the headquarters of Gallimard, a prestigious publishing house, to seize copies of the books. In the case scheduled to start on Wednesday, Mr. Matzneff’s publishers and promoters could also be held to account — with the books as evidence.

“We know of emotionally troubled men who justified pedophilia after reading Matzneff’s books,” said Méhana Mouhou, a lawyer for l’Ange Bleu, the anti-pedophilia organization that has brought the case.

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Gabriel Matzneff wrote about pedophilia for decades, describing his relations with teenage girls in France and sex tourism in the Philippines with boys as young as 8, the New York Times A cascade of elite French abandoned Matzneff as the scandal broke, and he moved to a hotel in the Italian Riviera.

Among those candidates is Amy Klobuchar, who made bets in New Hampshire that paid off in a third-place finish. There was a French TV station that found him first and did a three- or four-minute interview. And then a scholar I had interviewed pointed me to this town on the Italian Riviera.

Mr. Matzneff disappeared in late December, just before the publication of Ms. Springora’s memoir. As the scandal exploded in Paris, I pored through his diaries and books. When a brief interview he gave to a French television network hinted at his whereabouts, I went to the Italian Riviera and found Mr. Matzneff — a creature of habit, his diaries made clear — in his favorite cafe.

Initially startled, defensive and angry, the writer admitted that he was “very, very lonely” and began to open up.

Asking that his exact location not be revealed, Mr. Matzneff spoke for three and a half hours.

a man sitting at a desk: Mr. Matzneff in 1991. © Sylva Maubec/Sygma, via Getty Images Mr. Matzneff in 1991. He expressed bewilderment at the sudden cultural shift in France and his precipitous downfall. He showed no remorse for his past actions and did not renounce any of his writings.

He also confirmed the passages in his books that describe the support he received from powerful individuals, and provided fresh details. He was bitter and angry that former supporters have remained silent, distanced themselves or turned against him.

“They’re showing their cowardice,” he said. “We can say caution, but it’s more than caution from people I considered friends.”

A Powerful Network

Mr. Matzneff’s friends did more than celebrate his work. They also, unwittingly and otherwise, helped shield him from the authorities.

In 1986, Parisian police officers summoned Mr. Matzneff, who was 50 at the time, for questioning after receiving anonymous letters stating that he was staying in his apartment with Ms. Springora, then 14.

But when he went to the station, Mr. Matzneff had a talisman in his pocket: an article praising him by President François Mitterrand.

Mr. Matzneff had drawn Mr. Mitterrand’s attention two decades earlier after the publication of his first book, an essay collection titled “Le Défi,” (“The Challenge”).

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A Pedophile Writer Is on Trial . So Are the French Elites . Please be advised that paid advertisements appear on MichaelSavage.com. We do not endorse or evaluate the advertised product, service, or company, nor any of the claims made by the advertisement.

“He liked it so much that he gave it to his sons who were 15, 16,” Mr. Matzneff recalled, “and he invited me over for lunch.”

Gabriel Matzneff © Getty Gabriel Matzneff Mr. Mitterrand socialized with the up-and-coming author and remained an admirer, even after Mr. Matzneff published a full-throated defense of pedophilia in 1974 titled “Les Moins de Seize Ans” (“Under 16 Years Old”).

After he became president in 1981, Mr. Mitterrand invited Mr. Matzneff for lunch at the presidential palace at least once, in 1984, according to the François Mitterrand Institute.

The president also wrote a laudatory article for a small literary magazine, Matulu, that devoted a special issue in July 1986 to Mr. Matzneff. Describing Mr. Matzneff as an “impenitent seducer,” Mr. Mitterrand wrote that the author “has always amazed me with his extreme taste for rigor and with the depth of his thinking.”

The article was published only a few weeks before the Paris police began investigating the tips against Mr. Matzneff.

“Probably, I’d perhaps cut out the article into my wallet,” Mr. Matzneff said.

Josyane Savigneau in a blue shirt: “I saw him as a man who liked young women,” Josyane Savigneau said of Mr. Matzneff. “In France, he was never seen with boys.” © Hannah Assouline/Opale, via Bridgeman “I saw him as a man who liked young women,” Josyane Savigneau said of Mr. Matzneff. “In France, he was never seen with boys.” Ms. Springora recalls in her book: “In case of arrest, he thinks it has the power to save him.”

In fact, it did, Mr. Matzneff recalled. When detectives saw it, he said, they dismissed the anonymous tips they had received as the work of a literary rival.

“One of the detectives had told me, ‘They’re forms of envy, these anonymous letters, it’s no doubt envy,’” he said.

Beyond the article by Mr. Mitterrand, Mr. Matzneff had more direct help.

First, the prizewinning writer, and a friend, Christian Giudicelli, agreed to hide incriminating letters and photographs of Ms. Springora, Mr. Matzneff wrote.

Then, when they needed a safer place to stay, Mr. Matzneff and the teenager moved to a hotel. The bills were paid by the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, who died in 2008, and arranged by his close aide, Christophe Girard, according to Mr. Matzneff.

The new living arrangement allowed the writer to convalesce from an eye surgery, but also to “evade the visits of the juvenile squad, which he calls ‘persecutions,’” Ms. Springora wrote.

Mr. Matzneff recalled Mr. Girard telling him that “‘we’ll take care of everything, meals, everything.”

He added: “And that lasted, I think, about two years.”

“‘For us, it’s a drop of in the ocean, it’s nothing, and we love you,’” Mr. Girard said, according to Mr. Matzneff.

Mr. Girard declined interview requests.

Closing Ranks

It was, and remains, illegal in France for an adult to have sex with a minor under the age of 15. But unlike the United States and other countries with statutory rape laws — where those underage are considered too immature to fully consent to sexual relationships — France does not have an age of consent. As recently as 2018, it dropped efforts to set one.

In France, Mr. Matzneff was careful to stay mostly inside what some considered a “gray zone,” devoting diaries and novels to his relations with teenage girls. It is in the Philippines that he writes about engaging in clear acts of pedophilia, mostly with prepubescent boys.

a person in a suit and tie sitting in a chair in a room: Christophe Girard in 2013. He lobbied intensely for Mr. Matzneff to win a lifetime annual stipend. © Lionel Bonaventure/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Christophe Girard in 2013. He lobbied intensely for Mr. Matzneff to win a lifetime annual stipend. “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,” he wrote in his diaries, “Un Galop d’Enfer,” or “Racing Forward,” published in 1985.

A few people were appalled.

“He should be in jail,” a lone critical voice, Denis Tillinac, an editor at La Table Ronde who refused to publish Mr. Matzneff’s diaries, recalled recently. “But no, he’s not in jail, he’s welcomed and pampered by the president of the Republic, Mitterrand.”

The most public criticism came in 1990, on the literary television show “Apostrophes,” as the host and guests discussed Mr. Matzneff’s latest diary, “Mes Amours Décomposés,” (“My Decomposed Loves.”) In it, he boasted about having sex with countless minors, including 11- and 12-year-old Filipino boys he describes as “a rare spice.”

The single foreigner present, Denise Bombardier, a journalist from Quebec, denounced his pedophilia.

The reaction from France’s intelligentsia was swift.

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Josyane Savigneau, who was editor of a literary supplement of the French newspaper Le Monde from 1991 to 2005, publicly chided Ms. Bombardier and defended Mr. Matzneff’s work.

In a recent interview, Ms. Savigneau recalled being revolted by some of Mr. Matzneff’s writings, but said his books were superior to others that landed on her desk.

“I saw him as a man who liked young women,” she said. “In France, he was never seen with boys.”

Philippe Sollers, a famous novelist and Mr. Matzneff’s chief editor at Gallimard, later dismissed Ms. Bombardier with a crude sexual term. Mr. Sollers did not respond to a request for an interview.

The only public support for Ms. Bombardier came from an unexpected corner: President Mitterrand.

Ms. Bombardier recalled that she was invited to the presidential palace, where Mr. Mitterrand told her that though he had once “recognized qualities” in Mr. Matzneff, the author had unfortunately “sunk” into “pedophilia.”

Floundering

Though he kept churning out books, Mr. Matzneff was far from wealthy and turned to his powerful friends.

By 2002, Mr. Girard, the aide to Yves Saint Laurent, had become the deputy for culture to the mayor of Paris. (He is now serving again in the position.) He lobbied intensely for Mr. Matzneff to win a seldom-awarded lifetime annual stipend from the National Book Center, the center’s current director, Vincent Monadé, told the newspaper L’Opinion.

By 2005, the original publisher of Mr. Matzneff’s 1974 apology of pedophilia balked at republishing it. Mr. Matzneff said that another longtime ally — a powerful lawyer and author named Emmanuel Pierrat — introduced him to another publisher who gave it a second life.

“I don’t disown a single line in it, not a word,” Mr. Matzneff wrote in a preface to the 2005 edition.

Mr. Pierrat, who is now representing Mr. Matzneff, is also president of the PEN Club in France and secretary general of the Yves Saint Laurent Museum. He did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls requesting an interview.

By 2013, Mr. Matzneff’s views were no longer fashionable. His books barely sold. He had learned the year before that he had prostate cancer.

But even in his despair, he could still pull on some old strings.

a person standing in front of a window: Mr. Matzneff said he did not know when he would return to Paris. © Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times Mr. Matzneff said he did not know when he would return to Paris. A major literary award, the Renaudot, had twice slipped through his fingers despite the fierce maneuverings of one juror: Mr. Giudicelli, the writer to whom Mr. Matzneff had entrusted incriminating photos and letters of the 14-year-old Ms. Springora when he feared a police raid.

Besides being a friend, Mr. Giudicelli was also one of Mr. Matzneff’s editors at Gallimard and a frequent traveling companion to Manila.

Gallimard did not make Mr. Giudicelli, or anybody else at the publishing house, available for an interview.

So close are the two men that they referred to each other by the rooms they occupied on their first stay at the Tropicana Hotel in Manila.

“When it comes to conjuring up, here and there, in a short paragraph, memories of mischief and naughtiness about which we hardly feel guilty, my dear Eight-oh-four takes care to conceal his dear Christian under the protective wing of Eight-one-one,” Mr. Giudicelli writes about his friend.

In 2013, Mr. Giudicelli helped secure his friend the Renaudot prize, after studiously confiding Mr. Matzneff’s cancer diagnosis to his fellow jurors.

“It’s an argument we heard a lot: ‘He needs it, the poor guy,’” recalled one of the jurors, Franz-Olivier Giesbert, a writer and editor.

Dominique Bona, the only woman in the 10-member jury and a member of the French Academy, acknowledged that “friendships” played a part in awarding the prize to Mr. Matzneff.

Mr. Busnel, the host of “La Grande Librairie,” said recently, “Literary juries in France are totally corrupt.”

But the prize relaunched Mr. Matzneff’s career — eventually even earning him an invitation to appear on “La Grande Librairie.”

A rare critical voice came from a literary blogger, Juan Asensio, who wrote a scathing piece on the award and Mr. Matzneff’s pedophilia.

“I think that journalists sort of chickened out rather than saying the prize was a scandal,” he recalled.

Consent

One person was especially furious at the prize: Vanessa Springora. Angered and disgusted by Mr. Matzneff’s triumphant return, she began writing “Le Consentement.”

  A Pedophile Writer Is on Trial. So Is the French Elite. © AP

“Me, who had never won an important prize, she should have been happy for me,” Mr. Matzneff said. “But it made her angry?”

Mr. Matzneff said he learned in November of the imminent release of “Le Consentement” from friends at Grasset, the book’s publisher. He soon left for Italy as Ms. Springora’s book landed like a thunderbolt in a newly awakened France.

Alone in his hiding place on the Italian Riviera, Mr. Matzneff said he did not know when he would return to Paris. Other than his walks on the lungomare, he dines alone in the hotel restaurant. Up in his room, he rereads old, unpublished diaries. He will not, he says, read Ms. Springora’s book. He suffers from insomnia. He doesn’t write.

“I’m too miserable,” he said.

In Paris, it was now Ms. Springora’s turn in prime time, live, as she ascended to the studio of “La Grande Librairie.”

What began with a book could end only with a book. Only in France.

“My goal actually was to lock him up in a book, to catch him in his own trap,” Ms. Springora said on the show, “because that’s what he did to me and that’s what he did to many young girls.”

Daphné Anglès and Constant Méheut contributed reporting.

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