PARIS -- He was a middle-aged French author becoming known, even celebrated, for writing about sex with children. She was a fragile 14-year-old, too young to foresee the damage she says was done to her life by his predatory grip on her body and mind.
Now a grown woman, Vanessa Springora is causing a literary, legal and cultural storm in France with her explosive tell-all book that alleges, in cutting detail, an underage and destructive sexual relationship with French writer Gabriel Matzneff, now in his eighties.
The publication this month and quick commercial success of "Consent" is also being hailed by child-protection activists as a possible watershed moment for France. The book has ignited renewed debates about the country's permissive attitudes toward sex with minors and soul-searching about why Matzneff was long celebrated in Paris.
"This is a very important book. It's France's #MeToo moment," says Homayra Sellier, an advocate for child victims of sexual violence with the group Innocence in Danger.
Matzneff is rapidly becoming a pariah in the wake of the book's publication and is now the target of a new rape probe by Paris prosecutors. Yet for years, Matzneff was a frequent guest on French TV and radio. He was awarded a prestigious literary prize as recently as 2013 and honored by the French government with medals and an annual allowance.
But for the teenage Springora, Matzneff was the 50-year-old for whom she developed a schoolgirl crush after her mother, who worked in publishing, dragged her to a dinner party. There, she met and was bowled over by the writer who seemed to have eyes only for her. She alleges he then set about grooming her until he was habitually waiting at her school gates so he could take her away for sex in his flat or a hotel.
Matzneff has defended himself in an essay, which the L'Express magazine published in full. He wrote that he will not read Springora's book, describing it as "a dagger to the heart" that is "intended to harm me, to destroy me" and which "tries to make me out as a pervert, a manipulator, a predator ..."