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Gabriel Matzneff: French writer investigated for child rape after alleged victim publishes book

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By Pauline Bock  & AFP
Gabriel Matzneff
Gabriel Matzneff   -   Copyright  Pierre GUILLAUD / AFP

The Paris prosecutor's office has opened a preliminary investigation into statutory rape against a French writer who is accused of sexual relationships with children in a newly released book.

Gabriel Matzneff, 83, is a French writer who has written extensively about his attraction to underage boys and girls in novels and essays.

In her book Consent, released in France on Thursday, 47-year-old publisher Vanessa Springora tells the story of her relationship with Matzneff when she was about to turn 14, which she describes as predatory, and the effect it has had on her all her life.

"At 14, you're not supposed to be picked up by a 50-year-old man who's waiting for you outside the school, you're not supposed to live with him in a hotel, nor find yourself in bed with him, with his penis in your mouth as a 4-o'clock snack," she writes.

"Why couldn't a 14-year-old like a man 36 years older? (...) It's not my attraction that should have been questioned, but his."

Matzneff has said in an op-ed that he does not deserve the "awful profile" that Vanessa Springora wrote of him in her book. He denounced "a profile that denigrates [him], that is hostile, aimed at destroying" him. 

"She tries to paint me as a pervert, a manipulator, a predator, a bastard", he wrote.

The investigation into Matzneff, the Paris prosecutor Remi Heitz announced in a statement, will aim to "identify all other potential victims who may have suffered similar violations in France or abroad", "beyond the facts described by Vanessa Springora" in her book.

It will be led by France's Central Office for Repression of Violence on People (OCRVP).

Springora has announced via her publisher that she does not wish to react to the opening of the investigation at this time.

The author of Consent has previously said in interviews about her book that she does not wish to file a complaint against Matzneff.

The prosecutor's office has opened the investigation on its own initiative.

Springora is the first woman to speak up about her experience with Matzneff. The facts described in her book might be prescribed, which could complicate the investigation.

In a statement, the French state secretaries for gender equality and for children protection, Marlène Schiappa and Adrien Taquet, have called "all people with knowledge of paedo-criminal acts committed in this case or others to speak to judicial authorities so that victims can be acknowledged as such".

French culture minister, Franck Riester, said that "a literary aura is no guarantee of impunity" and has addressed his "full support to all the victims who have the courage to break the silence".