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three pairs of lovers with space



Gabriel Michel Hippolyte Matzneff (born 12 August 1936) is a prize-winning French writer, who began writing journals in 1953. In 1976, he spent a few days in Sicily, which he wrote about in his fifth journal, La Passion Francesca: Journal 1974-1976 (The Francesca Passion: Journal 1974-76), published by Gallimard in Paris in 1998. Presented here are all the passages of Greek love interest. The translation is this website’s.


La Passion Francesca

Matzneff was in Italy from 28 April to 7 May, initially in Sicily. Arriving that evening at the port of Milazzo,

14 in Sicily hotel 1975 d1

     Not without difficulty we find the Hotel R. The owner - an old pederast whom everyone calls “Professore” - welcomes us with open arms, but the hotel is in great disrepair. The rooms were large, rather dirty and, above all, damp, as if no-one had stayed there for months. My room, on the ground floor, has a door leading into the hall and a French window opening directly onto the street. It was this room that Jacques S. had emphatically explained to me that the “Professor” reserved for distinguished guests. “I,” he said, “have never been able to get it, but you will undoubtedly be admitted behind the iconostasis” (sic). On that first evening I could see the usefulness of the French window. I was in my room, writing my Byron, when I heard a “knock knock” coming from the street. I went to see. It was a boy. I let him in. Pretty face, pretty body, mediocre lover. The sheets being icy cold, I liked him as a hot water bottle even more than as a giton[1]. His name is Francesco, he absolutely wants to see me again, but it is not this Francesco who will make me forget Francesca. [pp. 256-7]

On the little island of Lipari, whither Matzneff had arrived from Milazzo:

     Friday 30 April. Peaceful night (with sleeping pill). Yesterday evening, some boys, lurking on the corner, came knocking at the French window as soon as they saw the light in my bedroom, but I did not open it to them, as they were too ugly for my taste. This morning I went for a walk on the beach and along the harbour. Dirty, grim, miserable, and not a pretty girl or boy the slightest bit sexy on the horizon. [pp. 257-8]

That evening, back in Milazzo:

     Afternoon. […]
     Francesco disembarks. He wants to make love, but I don’t feel like it. He kisses me, caresses me, and then I send him out by the door (at the French window), gently.
     Dammi un bacio! [Give me a kiss!] [p. 258]

     Saturday 1st May, 11:30, at Taormina. […]

     It’s possible that twenty or thirty years ago Taormina was a paradise for libertines;[2] today the local young people do not pay the slightest attention to foreign noblemen, they do not give them a glance. [pp. 259-60]


Continue to La Passion Francesca.


[1] Giton was a wanton and alluring boy in Petronius’s 1st century AD novella, the Satyricon, and the prototype of boys who made themselves available to men. Matzneff not infrequently uses this expression, much more common in the 18th century, perhaps inspired by Casanova, whose memoir he often quotes in his journals.

[2] The pretty little town of Taormina, perched on a cliff above the sea, had been a Mecca for connoisseurs of boys for nearly half a century before the 2nd World War, after its most famous resident, the fashionable boysexual photographer Wilhelm von Gloeden (1856-1931) had drawn attention to the naked charms of its boys through his widely-distributed photographs. It was said that the mayor’s wife set visitors up with suitable local boys. See also Taormina in 1924 by Franz Schoenberner.