French writer Gabriel Matzneff, accused of child rape says he 'didn't know' it was a crime

Though his sexual preferences were well known since the 1980s, a formal investigation into his misdeeds was opened only this month

Gabriel Matzneff, the 83-year-old French writer spoke to BFM TV, on Wednesday, January 29, in which he showed remorse over sexually exploiting minors in Asia, where he went as a traveller. Though his sexual preferences are well known since the 1980s, but that didn't stop him from being celebrated in the literary circles.

A formal investigation into his misdeeds was opened only this month, after a leading French editor Vanessa Springora (47), in her book 'Consent' opened up about her relationship as a 14-year-old girl, with a 50-year-old Matzneff.

Matzneff regrets exploiting minors

Gabriel Matzneff

The octogenarian showed regret over raping minors while travelling in Asa, Telegraph reported. "A tourist should not behave like that", he said. "An adult should turn their head away and resist the temptation. Naturally, if I did something that was not good I regret it", he added.

Recounting his travel to Asia, Matzneff said, "You are there 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".

"At the time people talked of inciting a minor to debauchery, or indecent assault... But nobody ever spoke of crime". The now tainted writer gave the interview from Italy, where he has fled to escape the widespread criticism and police probe he is facing in France.

'Le Consentement': Vanessa Springora opens about her relationship as a 14-year-old

Though his sexual preferences were well known, since decades, a flood of criticism came his way when leading French editor, Vanessa Springora (47) penned her relationship with a 50-year-old Matzneff when she was a 14-year-old girl.

In her book 'Le Consentement', or 'Consent' [in English], Springora writes, "At 14, you're not supposed to find a 50-year-old man waiting for you at the school gate, you're not supposed to live in a hotel with him or find yourself in his bed". She doesn't accuse him of rape, when she writes, "How can you admit that you were abused, when you cannot deny that you consented?"

Matzneff denies any wrongdoing, insisting there was an "exceptional love" between him and Springora. In 2018, French lawmakers voted 'against' setting at 15, the minimum age at which a minor can consent to a sexual relationship with an adult.

Matzneff vocal about his sexual preferences for minor girls and boys

In "Les Moins de Seize Ans", which was published in 1974, he was vocal about his "taste" for underage partners and sex tourism. In his 1990 book, "Mes amours decomposes" (My Loves Deconstructed), he described his sexual relationship with girls aged between 14 and 16.

Decades ago, in an interview, Matzneff said, he preferred "to have people in my life who are not hardened and who are still kind".

"A very young girl is rather sweeter, even if she becomes very quickly hysterical and just as crazy as she will be when she is older," he added. Such moral turpitude didn't stop him from being decorated with multiple awards and accolades, including the Renaudot prize, which he won in 2013. State honors awarded by the French government include Officer of Arts and Letters and Knight of the Order of National Merit.