Consent by Vanessa Springora review – a memoir of lost adolescence

The ugly truth emerges, in a headline-making account, of how a 14-year-old fell for, and was sexually abused by, a renowned writer three times her age

Paris, March 1990. A writer called Gabriel Matzneff is a guest on Bernard Pivot’s influential literary TV chat show Apostrophes to discuss his recently published memoir, about his sexual conquests of very young women. “It seems that women over the age of 20 no longer interest you,” comments Pivot. Matzneff agrees; older women have known “disillusionment”, and he prefers to sleep with “those who are not yet hardened, who are still nice”.

The only person present to take exception to Matzneff’s comments is the Canadian novelist Denise Bombardier, who calls them an “abuse of power”: “We all know how some girls can become besotted by men with a certain literary aura.” Matzneff says some high-minded things about how Bombardier doesn’t have the right to judge a work of littérature on those terms. “There are limits even to literature,” she replies. For this, les intellos mock her left and right in the press. A few days later, on the TV channel France 3, the writer and critic Philippe Sollers calls her a bitch.

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