French authorities have opened an investigation into allegations that the once celebrated author Gabriel Matzneff, who has written widely about having sex with underage partners, raped a child in the 1980s.
The investigation was triggered by the publication this week of a book called Le Consentement, or Consent, by Vanessa Springora in which she describes the now 83-year old Mr Matzneff as a paedophile and a predator.
In the book Ms Springora details her experience in the 1980s when she says she was Mr Matzneff’s lover, aged 14, at a time when the author was already 50 years old.
The so-called “Matzneff affair” has already been called a #MeToo moment for France’s literary establishment and has sparked a heated conversation about what Ms Springora has called the “hypocrisy of an entire era” when sex with children and the abuse of women was overtly tolerated.
“It was however not very difficult to know who Matzneff was at the time,” said Ms Springora in an interview with French newspaper Le Parisien on Wednesday. “I met him in 1986. We knew him. There was a dysfunction of all institutions: school, police, the hospitals.”
The Paris public prosecutor said in a statement on Friday that the inquiry against Mr Matzneff would focus on “rapes committed against a minor” under the age of 15.
Owing to the time elapsed since the alleged events took place, they may fall outside of the statute of limitations meaning they cannot be prosecuted, a person briefed on the investigation said. But the public prosecutor said it intended to open a comprehensive investigation into Mr Matzneff’s sexual history.
“Beyond the facts described by Vanessa Springora in her book, the investigations . . . will endeavour to identify all other possible victims who may have suffered offences of the same nature on national territory or abroad,” the public prosecutor said.
Ahead of the book’s publication on Thursday France’s culture minister, Frank Riester, tweeted: “The literary aura is not a guarantee of impunity. I give my full support to all the victims who have the courage to break the silence.”
Mr Matzneff has never hidden his relationship with children, writing widely about it and discussing his experiences on popular French talk shows.
Mr Matzneff could not immediately be reached for comment but has recently lashed out at Ms Springora.
“She draws a disparaging, hostile, blackened portrait of me, intended to harm me, to destroy me; where, using a heavy psychoanalytic vocabulary, she tries to make me a pervert, a manipulator, a predator, a bastard,” Mr Matzneff said in a long open letter published this week by French magazine L’Express.
He added: “A book whose aim is to throw me into the cursed cauldron into which, lately, photographer Hamilton, filmmakers Woody Allen and Roman Polanski have been thrown.”
Additional reporting by Domitille Alain