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January 11 2020
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Gabriel Matzneff in 2015, when all his books—Les Moins de Seize Ans, or “The Under 16s,” among them—were still in print.

Of all the #MeToo cases rocking the Western elite, France is enmeshed in the most astounding one so far: that of Gabriel Matzneff, lauded man of letters and, for 40-odd years, an unrepentant, talk-about-it-on-television pedophile. Only now is the writer facing comeuppance, with the publication of a memoir by Vanessa Springora, one of Matzneff’s victims, called Le Consentement, or “Consent.”

As was the case with Hollywood—the closest thing America has to a cultural elite—a few years ago, the French power structure that overlooked and even lionized Matzneff’s repeat offenses is coming under the microscope. The leaders of France’s literary and intellectual mafia, suffused with post–May 1968 laxity around sexual ethics, were given free rein to do, it seems, anything they wanted, as long as it was in the name of art. May ’68 started as a student movement but soon extended to general strikes that seized the entire country. It became a sexual revolution as well as a political one, whose players, especially under the Socialist government of François Mitterrand, soon found their way into the halls of real power.

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