2/11/2020 | Truth Geeza
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.”