The book of Vanessa Springora, The consent, focused on the evocation and denunciation of her own experience at the age of thirteen, when she was seduced by a mature and attractive writer, Gabriel Matzneff, whom she always refers to with an initial, brings the question of sexual abuse back to the table. The author meets him at her mother’s house, she is thirteen years old and the relationship between them begins a year later, around 1987. Vanessa is still a minor, Matzneff is 51 years old and leads a kind of movement in France that demands the abolition of the sexual age of majority, foreseen in France at fifteen years. In your essay Les moins de seize ans (Children under six years, from 1974 and happily reissued in 2015) already exposed his preference for “extreme youth”, that is, those between 10 and 15 years old. So the disproportion between the old man and the girl, to put it in Moratinian terms, leaves little doubt about his anomaly. Because we are not facing a story that transgresses moral norms due to the experience of an exceptional love felt with the force of the irresistible (it would be the case of Lolita), but in the case of a predator who makes his distorted sexual preference the sad flag of his life.
Let’s say that Matzneff was part of an intellectual elite in the eighties cynical enough to shelter under a supposed cultural refinement actions and convictions that we now strongly reject socially. Their books –Month amours decomposés, La prunelle de mes yeux … – they did not deceive anyone and their commented interventions in the media, presuming to sodomize adolescents either. Is protecting a minor from a corrupt adult an act of puritanism? This is how the writer has argued in the letter published a few months ago in L’Express where he accuses Springora of throwing his book into the “damn cauldron” of the inquisition along with other artists who are in a situation similar to his own. But the truth is that as we advance in the interpretation of the values that should be fundamental in a democracy, more and more questions arise that have to do with how to live an intersubjectivity based on mutual understanding exercised without violence and respecting the law. . The “damn cauldron” is nothing more than the process that we are carrying out together, reviewing convictions or practices that being historical are morally unjust.
Springora accuses French society of neglect, of looking the other way in her case because the subject in question was a cult writer and that functioned as a protective shield. Indeed, we live in a society that only in certain situations is accountable to itself, reacting forcefully where it previously held the greatest permissiveness. Maybe she does it when she feels ripe to deal with them. In other words, the process progresses in fits and starts. We could think of a kind of social blindness: Suddenly, a situation that brings together multiple complicities stops having them and the blindfold that prevents seeing falls from the eyes, then taking a self-reflective step. Suddenly, the state of grace disappears and a new reality emerges with all the harshness of the events until then postponed. Matzneff, now 84, has seen his status as a spoiled pervert crumble from one day to the next. The sole statement of a woman who considers himself a victim of social tolerance around male pedophilia has now been enough so that a few days after being published The consent, Matzneff saw how Gallimard withdrew all his work from the sale (a decision that the publisher has made for the first time in its 130 years of existence), that the Minister of Culture announced the suspension of the financial aid that the writer had been receiving since 2002 , also opening the review process of the awards received by the French State. For his part, the mayor of Paris has forced him to give up the subsidized apartment in which he lived. There is no doubt that the moral and intellectual climate has changed.
But let’s look at the text itself, it is as necessary to consider the extra-literary repercussions that the book has had. Who is speaking and where does he speak from? It is written by a woman who evokes what happened in her adolescence thirty-five years later and from an autobiographical self that develops in two planes. The identity plane where the author goes back to the past of her relationship with G. and to the memory of that experience that was sweet, terrible, bitter, undoubtedly traumatizing, but which is not always effectively described as details are systematically avoided. And a powerful performative plane conceived as a form of liberation where the narrator abandons the story to give an opinion, to confront social permissiveness and the sustained silence of her companions in misfortune and, of course, to influence the mood of readers, female readers. above all, in search of solidarity. All the men in the book are harshly judged – the father is a neurotic with violent outbreaks who disengages himself from his family and his daughter’s relationship with G. after having a brief rage at the knowledge; G. is the wolf in sheep’s clothing from stories and Cioran appears fleetingly as an icon of the intelligentsia that knows how to wash their hands at the right moment. However, where is the mother to all this? She seems to tolerate the relationship, taking refuge in her daughter’s sexual precocity, but very soon she disappears from the story, even in the most desperate moments that the young woman experiences before an experience that is beyond her possibilities of government.
Why do you ignore the difficult story that your daughter lives? Springora avoids complexity and therefore it is worth wondering if her decision to tell it now is instrumental and opportunistic or represents another step in the process that women have undertaken to activate a critical point of view in relation to the world. I choose the second option.