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French publisher drops book by writer accused of child rape

A French publisher said Monday that it would suspend plans to release a book by writer Gabriel Matzneff, currently under investigation for raping children, after its staff received “death threats”.

Matzneff, 86, has made no secret of his preference for sex with under-age teenagers, speaking at length about it on TV and publishing an essay in the 1970s entitled “Les Moins de Seize Ans” (“The Under-16s”).

But despite an ongoing judicial investigation against him, the Paris-based Nouvelle Librairie had planned to publish a new collection of his articles called “Derniers ecrits avant le massacre” (“Final Writings Before the Massacre”). 

Now “we’ve found ourselves forced to postpone indefinitely the release” of the book, the company said in a statement.

“Some reactions have been totally disproportionate. At a time when freedom of expression is dangerously losing ground, Nouvelle Libraire plans to stand up for it.

“But it cannot accept serious death threats issued to its staff, who it must protect,” the publisher added, saying it had already been targeted by vandalism.

As recently as 2013, Matzneff was feted by a wider cross-section of the French literary establishment, winning the prestigious Renaudot Prize for a previous collection of essays. 

His standing only changed with the publication in 2020 of a book by a leading publisher, Vanessa Springora, describing how she was groomed by Matzneff when she was 14.

Coming in the wake of MeToo, her book “Consent” was a turning point, encouraging others to come forward with allegations of abuse against him — as well as sparking wider discussion of the prevalence of paedophilia in French society.

But with no more recent victims coming forward to accuse Matzneff, he may not face trial, as Springora’s allegations dating back to the 1980s have passed the statute of limitations.

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