MATZNEFF IN THE LAND OF THE SOVIETS, 1966-67
Gabriel Michel Hippolyte Matzneff (born 12 August 1936) is a prize-winning French writer of Russian-émigré parentage who has loved both adolescent boys and girls, as he first described frankly in his book, Les Moins de seize ans (1974) and then in his published journals.
He visited the U.S.S.R. twice, in 1966 and 1967, and wrote about it in the third of his twelve journals, Vénus et Junon: 1965-1969, published by Éditions de la Table ronde in Paris in 1979, pp. 84-87 and 135-142. Presented here is everything touching on Greek love. The translation is this website’s.
Venus and Juno
From 2 to 31 July 1966, Matzneff was in Russia for his first visit there. In Moscow he was first introduced to Vadim Delaunay, an 18-year-old dissident Russian poet of French ancestry, whom he met in his family’s apartment in Piatnitzkaï Street:
Of my new friends, the one who captivates me most is Misha, Vadim Delaunay’s younger brother. He is thirteen. He is cute, with his slightly flat nose, and has taken a real liking to me. He paints, reads, listens to music. He asks me about Viacheslav Ivanov, about the Acmeists... He wants to be baptised, but first he wants to deepen his knowledge of Orthodoxy. I have never met a kid of that age who is so internalised...
Soon afterwards, Matzneff met another well-known dissident in Moscow, Alexei Dobrovolski:
Meeting in a public garden with Dobrovolski. Given his past, he is certainly being followed. We sit near a group of children playing noisily, and talk in a low voice. I advise him not to keep any forbidden magazines at home, especially not those published by the N.T.S.: Possev, Grani... I give him other recommendations.
“How are you so good at clandestinity?” he wonders with a smile.
The truthful answer would be pedophilia: the lover of children under sixteen is as threatened in France as the dissident intellectual in the U.S.S.R. But as I don't want to shock this fervent Christian, I evade the issue.
New afternoon at the Delaunay home […]. Little Misha offers me drawings. I make him a gift of my watch.
From 2 to 9 April 1967, Matzneff paid another visit to Moscow:
2 April. […] Sunday afternoon. April in Moscow. […]
As soon as I put my luggage down in the hotel, I set off in search of Misha Delaunay. I didn’t think it would be so easy to find his building. I ring the doorbell at length. No one opens it for me but it’s not without emotion... Last year, however, it was better. [...] Disappointed, I walk away and take the metro to the other side of the city. […]
4 April. [...] N. does not have a telephone. So, as I absolutely want to reach Misha Delaunay, I go downstairs every quarter of an hour to call from a phone booth. I hang around waiting in the cold and wade through the mud. In vain, because nobody answers. Yet the Delaunay flat is a community apartment: other families live there. Why this silence? Sasha promises to do everything possible so that I can meet Misha. [...]
5 April. [...] And I’ve just found Misha, at last, and seen him at home. For three days I had been trying in vain to reach him. He wouldn’t tell me anything I didn't already know about the arrest of Bukovsky, Galanskov and our friends; but I wanted to see him again, my little prince from last summer.
It was he who opened the door for me. His face decomposed, his eyes puffy with tears, almost unrecognisable. Poor kid! He threw himself around my neck, kissed me, hugged me tightly, then, still without saying a word, he took me into the room on the right, at the end of the corridor, the one where Dominique and I had first met the smogists.
His mother is there. “We can’t receive you, Vadim has been arrested.”
Misha scribbles a few words on a piece of paper and hands it to me. “It’s impossible to talk. The KGB have put microphones everywhere.” We try to have an innocent conversation. Micha shows me his paintings. I talk about my visits to the Writers’ Union, the French Embassy, the whole official part of my trip, which helps me hide the clandestine.
When I leave Misha, I go back to the hotel. In Gorki Street I am accosted by a young boy, fifteen years old, breathtakingly beautiful, who knows my name, claims to have seen me the day before in a café... An obvious provocation. “I’ll come and see you in your room at the hotel,” he announces. [...]
7 April. [...] Three o'clock in the afternoon. I take a little rest in my room. There is a knock at the door. It’s the boy who flirted with me in the street the other day! I’ve been warned that sexual provocations are one of the KGB’s favourite weapons, but with me they are misplaced: I’m not someone who can be blackmailed. Even if they threatened to publish pictures of me having sex with a whole primary school, I would tell them: “Publish then! I’ll be very flattered by it!”
Describing his departure without trouble from Moscow on 9 April:
Finally, to all the provokers I confronted, I hinted that I was staying in Moscow for a long time yet: I even made an appointment this morning with a boy too pretty and too amorous to be honest.
 Members of SMOG, an informal group of young poets and writers who did not adhere to the Communist Party’s doctrines. The derivation of the acronym is uncertain. Dominique had accompanied him from France to Moscow on his first visit there.
 Establishing that Matzneff was attracted to boys must have taken competent investigation by the KGB, since he had not yet mentioned it in any of his published work.
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