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Second woman accuses disgraced French writer Matzneff

Fiachra Gibbons

Agence France-Presse

Paris, France  /  Wed, April 1, 2020  /  06:05 pm
Second woman accuses disgraced French writer Matzneff

French writer Gabriel Matzneff walks along the Mediterranean sea in Bordighera, on February 16, 2020. (AFP/Valery Hache)

A second woman has broken her silence about being groomed and controlled by the disgraced French pedophile writer Gabriel Matzneff.

Journalist Francesca Gee said she was in a relationship for three years with Matzneff in the 1970s, with the then 37-year-old essayist waiting outside her school every day for her when she was 15.

Gee and the often explicit letters the diarist encouraged her to write featured in a number of Matzneff's books against her will, she told the New York Times, including his notorious defense of pedophilia, Les Moins de Seize Ans, (The Under 16s).

He even boasted in his diaries, which were regularly published, of having her moved to a prestigious Paris high school so she could be close to him.

In a statement seen by AFP, Gee said that she had been a victim of "his predatory behavior" and had tried unsuccessfully for decades to stop one of his publishers, Gallimard, using a picture of her on the cover of his book, Drunk on Lost Wine.

Gallimard has since pulled all Matzneff's books from sale.

The 83-year-old has never made any secret of his sexual preference for adolescent girls and boys. 

It did not stop him winning the Renaudot prize in 2013 and being honored by the French state.

Read also: French writer 'regrets' his pedophile sex tourism in Asia

'World wasn't ready'

He occupied a privilege niche in the French literary world until January when attitudes toward the writer changed radically after publisher Vanessa Springora revealed her own tortured under-age relationship with him in her bestseller, Consent.

Matzneff -- who fled to Italy after the scandal broke -- is to stand trail next year on a charge of justifying pedophilia, and prosecutors launched a rape investigation into him the day after Springora's book was published.

Gee, now 63, told the New York Times in an article published Tuesday that she had exposed Matzneff in a book she had written in 2004 but which no French publisher would print.

"He never stopped using me to justify his sexual exploitation of children and teenagers," she wrote.

A number of editors who had read the manuscript at the time praised its quality but told the newspaper that "clearly it was 15 years too early. The world wasn't ready yet."

An editor at Grasset, which published Springora's Consent but turned down Gee's earlier book, said the subject was "sensitive" and Matzneff had influential friends at the publishing house.

Gee, a former journalist, told the New York Times that Matzneff took her to see gynecologist Michele Barzach half a dozen times in the 1970s to get contraceptive pills while she was a minor.

Barzach went on to become a French health minister and head of the country's arm of UN's child protection agency, UNICEF.

She also later helped draft a law tightening French child abuse laws in 1985.

The Matzneff controversy has shone a light on what many see as an overly permissive attitude towards sexual harassment and abuse in France. 

The writer claimed that his initiation of young women into sex, art and literature had left them happier and freer.