Pedophilia scandal in france: he was 50, she 14

Publisher Vanessa Springora reports on her ex’s pathological sexuality in a book. Now the author is under investigation.

Describes her experiences without shyness: Vanessa Springora Photo: Opale/afp

When Vanessa Springora speaks of Gabriel Matzneff, she uses the terms of the hunt. She calls the well-known French writer the predator, herself his prey. For decades, the publishing director says she suffered from the relationship that the then 50-year-old Matzneff forced on her, the then 14-year-old. Until she wrote about her experiences in a book – and triggered a pedophilia scandal in France.

"Le Consentement" ("The Consent") is the name of the 47-year-old’s autobiographical work. Almost 10,000 copies sold within three days. The revelations led the Paris prosecutor’s office to open an investigation into the now 83-year-old last week. In doing so, Springora assures that she is not telling anything new. Matzneff himself had already described his pedophilic tendencies in detail in his books in the 1970s.

Vanessa Springora knew nothing of this, however, when she met the bald writer before her 14th birthday at a dinner her mother had taken her to. She was a shy child, she confesses in her book. Her father left the family when his daughter was five. "A strong interest in books. A certain sexual precociousness. And above all, a huge need to be noticed," she says, describing her emotional world back then.

An unequal relationship quickly developed, with the author declaring the child his muse and meeting her in hotel rooms. She appears as "little V." in his books, for which he received several awards, including the coveted Renaudot literary prize in 2013. Matzneff has been summoned by police for his relationship with Springora, but has never been investigated.

"Don’t you know this is a pedophile?"

"When you’re 14, you don’t usually get picked up from school by a 50-year-old. You don’t live in a hotel with him and you don’t find yourself in his bed at the hour of the break," Springora describes her experience in the newspaper Le Monde.

At the time, her mother did make her aware of the danger posed by "G.," as Springora calls Matzneff in her book: "Don’t you know that this is a pedophile?" she asked the daughter. That was all she did. It was Springora herself who ended the relationship after two years. She read the books in which her lover openly described his amorous adventures with girls and boys and his sex tourism in the Philippines – "in search of fresh buttocks".

"Under Sixteen" is the name of the best-known essay on the subject, which appeared back in 1974. It was then that she became aware that Matzneff had a pathological sexuality, confesses Springora, whose book led the Paris prosecutor’s office to investigate the now 83-year-old last week. "A love story between a 14-year-old girl and a 50-year-old man can happen. The problem is the systematic and pathological nature of his fondness for teenagers and the damage it causes," she told Le Parisien newspaper.

It was then, she says, that she became aware that Matzneff had a pathological sexuality. Anxiety and depression were the consequences of her traumatic childhood experience. Good friends and psychotherapy helped the publisher work through the morbid relationship over decades.

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