Gabriel Matzneff

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Gabriel Matzneff (born August 12, 1936), is a French writer. He was the winner of the Mottard and Amic awards from the Académie française in 1987 and 2009 respectively, the Prix Renaudot essay in 2013 and the Prix Cazes in 2015.

He described his pedophile and sexual tourism activities in several of his books as well as on his official website, and those activities were mentioned on national TV. [1] Nonetheless, he remained sheltered from any criminal prosecution throughout his literary career and benefited from a wide and enthusiastic support within the French literary world — all that despite the fact that his books did not sell well to the general public. [2]

On February 11, 2020, French prosecutors announced that a criminal investigation had been launched. Matzneff was summoned to appear before a Paris court the following day. [3]

Matzneff came from a family of Russian émigrés who settled in France after 1917. According to information available on his official website, “his parents divorced when he was six months old; throughout his childhood he never saw them in the same room, and would often be separated from his sister Alexandra and his brothers André and Nicolas. It was a childhood tossed to and fro, overshadowed by family breakdowns and war. It was a childhood which still causes him very painful memories." [4]

His family raised him in a refined cultural environment, rubbing shoulders with such famous French figures as Léon Chestov and Nicolas Berdiaev. It is here he discovered literature and religion. Matzneff spent a year attending the Gerson private Catholic school (1943–1944), two in Lycée Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague (1944–1946), then moved to a school in Tannenberg from between 1946 and 1952, and from 1952 attended Lycée Carnot. In 1954 he commenced his studies on classical letters and philosophy at the Sorbonne. After completing his military service in Algeria between 1959 and 1960, Matzneff returned to Paris in 1961. He enrolled as a Russian speaker at the Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales and began a career as a journalist. [5]

He met Henry de Montherlant in June 1957 and remained his friend, in spite of quarrels, until his suicide in 1972. [6]

He began to keep his diary on August 1, 1953 but did not publish it until 1976. In the first volume, he vowed himself to be a rebel sentimental libertine: "I was Athos, the great misanthrope lord, secret, different...". [7]

In October 1962, the publication director of Combat, who had noticed his work, asked him to write a column for his daily. During the following decades, Matzneff was to be a regular or occasional columnist for several newspapers and magazines of all political stripes, including Le Quotidien de Paris, Le Figaro and Le Monde'. From 2013 to December 2019, he kept an irregular column on the web edition of Le Point. [8]

In October 1964 he took part in the founding congress of the Coordinating Committee of Orthodox youth, where he met the high school student Tatiana Scherbatcheff. [9] He married her on January 8, 1970 in London before divorcing on March 3, 1973. This divorce caused him a crisis of faith which moved him away from the Church; he then left the Committee and ceased co-production of the television program Orthodoxy which he had helped to create in May 1965.

His first book, Le Défi, a collection of essays, was published in 1965. The following year he published his first novel, L'Archimandrite, which he began writing during his military service. During the 1970s, he made a number of trips to the Middle East as well as to Poland and the Soviet Union. During the 1980s, he made several trips to the Philippines where, as he described in one of his books, he engaged in sex with pre-adolescent boys that he had picked up at Harrison Plaza, Manilla's main shopping center. [10]

The critic Pol Vandromme wrote in 1974 that he was "the most notable writer of his generation". [11]

In 1990, Matzneff joined Gallimard with the help of Philippe Sollers, who published it in his collection " L'Infini ". Gallimard paid monthly royalties to Matzneff until 2004. [12]

Gallimard, the leading publishing group and Matzneff's historical publisher for 30 years, abruptly stopped marketing the author's books in early January 2020 and recalled his books from bookstores, less than two months after having published L’Amante de l’Arsenal, the last installment of his diary. [13] On 12 February 2020, the police searched the headquarters of Éditions Gallimard looking for, among other things, unpublished manuscripts detailing Matzneff's pedophile activities. [14]

Matzneff was the winner of the Mottard and Amic awards from the Académie française in 1987 and 2009 respectively, [citation needed] the Prix Renaudot for best essay in 2013 [15] and the Prix Cazes in 2015. [16]

Despite describing acts of pedophilia and hebephilia, Matzneff remained sheltered from any criminal prosecution for a long time and benefited from a large support within the French literary world. [17] At the end of 2019 one of his former victims, Vanessa Springora  [fr] — the director of Éditions Julliard [18] —published the book Le Consentement describing the effect that Matzneff had on her at the age of 14. Her book unleashed an intense controversy over the tolerance of the literary milieu towards an assumed pedophile. This controversy first led Éditions Gallimard to withdraw their marketing services for some of his works, in particular Carnets noirs and Les Moins de seize ans, with other publishers to follow. [19]

Matzneff's diary Un Galop d’Enfer, published in 1985, read that whilst in the Philippines he would regularly have sex with underage boys. He wrote that “Sometimes, I’ll have as many as four boys — from 8 to 14 years old — in my bed at the same time, and I’ll engage in the most exquisite lovemaking with them”. [3]

The original title of the series, until 2009, was "Journal" , both in editions of the Round Table, from 1976 to 1991, and in Gallimard editions, from 1990 to 2007. According to the general catalog of the National Library from France, from 2009, with the publication by Éditions Léo Scheer, the overall title was changed to: Carnets noirs ("Black Notebooks"). [20]

Gabriel Matzneff is the author of several novels with the same hero, Nil Kolytcheff. These are: Isaïe réjouis-toi, Ivre du vin perdu, Harrison Plaza, Mamma, li Turchi!, Voici venir le fiancé, La Lettre au capitaine Brunner.


  1. See the 1990 excerpt (in French) from the popular French TV show Apostrophes (talk show) where he is confronted by the Canadian writer Denise Bombardier: A report about the incident by the BBC: ^
  2. "Pédophilie: avec Matzneff, l'édition va-t-elle connaître son affaire Polanski?". (in French). 2019-12-23. Retrieved 2020-06-11. ^
  3. Onishi, Norimitsu (February 11, 2020), A Pedophile Writer Is on Trial. So Are the French Elites, The New York Times, retrieved February 11, 2020 ^
  4. "La jeunesse de Gabriel Matzneff" [The youth of Gabriel Matzneff] . (in French). 2009. Archived from the original on 29 December 2019. Retrieved 30 December 2019. ^
  5. "Biographie de Gabriel Matzneff" [Biography of Gabriel Matzneff] . Figaroscope (in French). Le Archived from the original on December 29, 2019. Retrieved December 30, 2019. ^
  6. Les cendres de Montherlant [The ashes of Montherlant] , Le Monde, April 20, 1973 ^
  7. Bott, François (19 March 1976), Gabriel Matzneff, le “libertin sentimental” [Gabriel Matzneff, the “sentimental libertine”] (in French), Le Monde, archived from the original on 30 December 2019, retrieved 21 January 2020 ^
  8. Perrin, Dominique (December 23, 2019), Les temps ont changé, il est devenu indéfendable dans un contexte post-#metoo [Times have changed, it has become indefensible in a post-#metoo world to defend Gabriel Matzneff] (in French), Le Monde, archived from the original on January 15, 2020, retrieved January 21, 2020 ^
  9. L'Archange aux pieds fourchus: 1963-1964 [The Archangel with Forked Feet: 1963-1964] (in French), La Table ronde, 1974, p. 197 ^
  10. Gabriel Matzneff, Mes amours décomposés : journal 1983-1984, Gallimard, 1990, p. 222, 226–227, 232. ^
  11. Le Rappel de Charleroi [The Recall of Charleroi] (in French), Éditions du Sandre, April 27, 2010, p. 271 ^
  12. Gabriel Matzneff, questions sur un prix Renaudot [Gabriel Matzneff, questions about a Renaudot Prize] (in French), Le Monde, January 6, 2020, archived from the original on January 7, 2020, retrieved 2020-01-07 ^
  13. "Affaire Matzneff: Gallimard retire de la vente le journal de l’écrivain, qu’elle publiait depuis trente ans", AFP-Le Monde. ^
  14. "Affaire Matzneff: perquisition chez Gallimard, l’enquête s’oriente vers son éditeur et compagnon de voyage", L'Obs. ^
  15. "Gabriel Matzneff remporte le Renaudot essai pour "Séraphin, c'est la fin !"" [Gabriel Matzneff wins the Renaudot essay for Séraphin, c'est la fin! ] (in French). Le Point. November 4, 2013. Archived from the original on February 16, 2020. Retrieved January 21, 2020. ^
  16. Pradelle, Alice de La (7 April 2015). "Gabriel Matzneff reçoit le Prix Cazes" [Gabriel Matzneff receives the Prix Cazes] . Le Archived from the original on 15 January 2020. Retrieved 2020-01-21. ^
  17. Schofield, Hugh (January 19, 2020). "When sexual abuse was called seduction: France confronts its past". BBC News. Archived from the original on January 20, 2020. Retrieved January 21, 2020. ^
  18. Chrisafis, Angelique (December 28, 2019). "French publishing boss claims she was groomed at age 14 by acclaimed author". The Guardian. Archived from the original on January 8, 2020. Retrieved January 21, 2020. ^
  19. Lehrer, Natasha (January 10, 2020). "The Matzneff scandal shows France's attitude to consent is finally starting to change". The Guardian. Archived from the original on January 15, 2020. Retrieved January 21, 2020. ^
  20. Notice de collection ou de série No. FRBNF34306951, dans le catalogue général de la Bibliothèque nationale de France. ^
  21. Auproux, Agathe (8 April 2015). "Gabriel Matzneff lauréat du prix Cazes-Brasserie Lipp" [Gabriel Matzneff winner of the Cazes-Brasserie Lipp prize] . Livres Hebdo (in French). Archived from the original on 13 April 2015. Retrieved 2015-04-08.. ^