Translator – Natasha Lehrer
Every so often I read a blurb and just know a book’s contents are going to make my blood boil. This is one of those books.
In her memoir, Vanessa (V.) tells us about G.
G. is Gabriel Matzneff, a French author who, in his books, never attempts to hide his sexual assaults (he calls it love) of underage girls and his trips to the Philippines to sexually assault even younger boys. G. is someone who has won awards for detailing his crimes.
After they met at a party, G. quickly turned his attention to Vanessa.
I had just turned fourteen. He was almost fifty.
The fury for me came in waves, each time someone who could have (and should have) protected Vanessa failed to do so.
Her father is physically and emotionally absent; he doesn’t act on the outrage he feels when he learns of Vanessa’s ‘relationship’ with G.
Her mother allows it, even casually having dinner with her daughter and her rapist. Sure, her mother “consulted” her friends about him but none of them were “particularly disturbed”. This is the woman who made a deal with the devil:
Whatever the reason, her only intervention was to make a pact with G. He had to swear that he would never make me suffer.
The police are notified on a number of occasions but their efforts can hardly be accused of being an investigation.
Then there’s Emil Cioran, a philosopher and friend of G., who came up with this gem:
“It is an immense honor to have been chosen by him. Your role is to accompany him on the path of creation, and to bow to his impulses.”
I’m so glad that Vanessa has used writing to tell her truth, the very medium that her abuser used to distort her experiences with him.
This was a quick but difficult read. I spent a significant amount of time wanting to throw the book against a wall, mostly because the people who were infuriating me weren’t conveniently standing in front of me.
The fact that so many people essentially gave this man their blessing to continue being a serial predator astounds me. Because books are such an integral part of my life I feel justified in being personally offended that G. was encouraged to continue writing about his sickening behaviour, both by the French publishers who continued to print them and the people who actually paid to read them.
G. was not like other men. He boasted of only having had sexual relations with girls who were virgins or boys who had barely reached puberty, then recounted these stories in his books. This was precisely what he was doing when he took possession of my youth for his sexual and literary ends.
This is a well written book. Just make sure you have a punching bag handy when you read it.
P.S. This NY Times article has given me a glimmer or hope that G. may get to see the inside of a jail cell. Maybe all of his published books will be good for something after all: evidence.
Content warnings include domestic violence, gaslighting, grooming, mental health, paedophilia and sexual assault.
Once Upon a Blurb
Already an international literary sensation, an intimate and powerful memoir of a young French teenage girl’s relationship with a famous, much older male writer – a universal #MeToo story of power, manipulation, trauma, recovery, and resiliency that exposes the hypocrisy of a culture that has allowed the sexual abuse of minors to occur unchecked.
Sometimes, all it takes is a single voice to shatter the silence of complicity.
Thirty years ago, Vanessa Springora was the teenage muse of one of the country’s most celebrated writers, a footnote in the narrative of a very influential man in the French literary world.
At the end of 2019, as women around the world began to speak out, Vanessa, now in her forties and the director of one of France’s leading publishing houses, decided to reclaim her own story, offering her perspective of those events sharply known.
Consent is the story of one precocious young girl’s stolen adolescence. Devastating in its honesty, Vanessa’s painstakingly memoir lays bare the cultural attitudes and circumstances that made it possible for a thirteen-year-old girl to become involved with a fifty-year-old man who happened to be a notable writer. As she recalls the events of her childhood and her seduction by one of her country’s most notable writers, Vanessa reflects on the ways in which this disturbing relationship changed and affected her as she grew older.
Drawing parallels between children’s fairy tales and French history and her personal life, Vanessa offers an intimate and absorbing look at the meaning of love and consent and the toll of trauma and the power of healing in women’s lives. Ultimately, she offers a forceful indictment of a chauvinistic literary world that has for too long accepted and helped perpetuate gender inequality and the exploitation and sexual abuse of children.