Gatineau library pulls books by controversial French author

The Gatineau Municipal Library has pulled books by controversial author Gabriel Matzneff after prosecutors in France opened an investigation of allegations of rape involving minors.

French author Gabriel Matzneff under investigation for alleged rape of minors

Author Gabriel Matzneff in Paris in 2013. (Getty Images / Bertrand Rindoff Petroff)

The Gatineau Municipal Library is no longer lending books written by a controversial French author after allegations of rape prompted authorities in France to open an inquiry.

The accusations against Gabriel Matzneff, 83, came to light in a recently published memoir by Vanessa Springora, who alleges the author stalked her and initiated sexual relations when he was 50 and she was just 14.

Matzneff has denied any wrongdoing. 

But since the publication of her book, The consentement (or "The Consent"), Matzneff's publisher has dropped his latest book and authorities have opened an investigation.

Matzneff had previously enjoyed a prestigious literary career in France, though he detailed his sexual activities with minors in a series of published diaries.

He won numerous literary awards in France and was until recently the recipient of an ongoing bursary from the French government in recognition of his achievements.

France's culture minister has since announced he is stripping Matzneff of his special government pension and French political magazine Le Point announced it was dropping him as a columnist.

Diaries pulled in Gatineau, Montreal

The Gatineau, Que., library holds six titles by Matzneff, including three volumes of his personal diaries.

In a statement sent to Radio-Canada, the City of Gatineau said the diaries have been withdrawn and are no longer available for borrowing.

The other works have also been removed for analysis, the city said.

The decision is in line with that of the province's flagship book lender, La Grande Bibliothèque in Montreal, which announced it was taking Matzneff's works out of circulation the same day last week his French publisher said it would stop printing and distributing his books.

Ottawa says no complaints thus far

The Ottawa Public Library (OPL) does not have copies of Matzneff's diaries. Its holdings include an essay and four novels, all of which remain on the shelves.

Coun. Tim Tierney, the chair of the Ottawa Public Library Board, said the library has not received any complaints from the public. 

"OPL does not own copies of Mr. Matzneff's intimate journals, the works which two other libraries have removed from their collections," said Tierney in a statement to CBC.

"Given that none of his creative works in OPL's collection have been deemed criminal, the Library will keep them for the time being."

Rare for book to be pulled

The author is little read in English Canada. But in Quebec, the removal of the book has met with some criticism from legal and cultural scholars who have accused La Grande Bibliothèque of censorship.

Mary Cavanagh, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa's School of Information Studies, said libraries regularly review their collections for relevancy and quality but it's rare to hear about a controversial book being pulled from the catalogue.

Bibliothèque municipale de Gatineau removes all books by a French writer accused of rape against minors. 4:39

"From a distance I was surprised to read that a library is pulling a book off the shelf," Cavanaugh said.

"But given the controversy in France [and] the Me Too movement toward changing expectations … I understand why might want to pull the book off the shelf."

With files from Radio-Canada's Kevin Sweet, Katerine Verebely and Nabi-Alexandre Chartier