French writer Gabriel Matzneff 'regrets' his paedophile sex tourism in Asia

Gabriel Matzneff is being investigated by French police after a leading French publishing executive detailed how he abused her when she was 14 in an explosive new bestseller.
Gabriel Matzneff is being investigated by French police after a leading French publishing executive detailed how he abused her when she was 14 in an explosive new bestseller.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - French writer Gabriel Matzneff said in an interview on Wednesday (Jan 29) that he "regrets" his trips to Asia to have sex with children, claiming that at the time "no one ever said it was a crime".

The veteran essayist is being investigated by French police after a leading French publishing executive detailed how he abused her when she was 14 in an explosive new bestseller.

"A tourist should not behave like that," the 83-year-old told a French television channel in Italy, where he has fled to, to escape the storm the revelations stirred.

French publishing houses pulled his works from bookshops last month, a move that Matzneff has denounced.

"I find it stupid, extravagant that in 2020, I am facing grief for books I wrote more than 40 years ago," he said.

But in the new interview with BFMTV, he was more contrite.

"An adult should turn their head away and resist the temptation. Naturally, if I did something that was not good, I regret it.

"You were there as a traveller, and young boys and girls were trying to pull you in the street and jump on you under the benevolent eye of the police."

Matzneff never made any secret of his sexual preference for adolescent girls and boys and it did not stop him from winning the Renaudot prize in 2013.

 
 

He also was awarded major state honours in France.

And the writer even enjoyed a special pension and reduced rent for his apartment in a chic district of the French capital.

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

But attitudes towards the writer changed dramatically after publisher Vanessa Springora revealed her tortured relationship with him in her book Consent, published on Jan 2.

She described how Matzneff, then in his 50s, would wait for her outside school and then take her to a hotel for sex.

 
 

Matzneff denies any wrongdoing, insisting there was an "exceptional love" between him and Ms Springora. During the interview with BFMTV, he railed against the French government for threatening to take away his special pension.

But French equality minister Marlene Schiappa said the problem with Matzneff "was not what he wrote but what he did". His case has exposed "major dysfunction" in French society, she said. "There are Matzneffs everywhere, and we have to denounce them."