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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. Presented here are all the passages of Greek love interest in them concerning his four recorded stays in northern Italy in 1962, 1963, 1971 and 1973. The translation is this website’s.


First visit, 8th to 22nd August 1962

Matzneff, who reached the age of twenty-six during this visit, was accompanied there by a fellow Russian Orthodox friend, a subdeacon nicknamed Chrysostome. It was recorded in Cette  camisole de flammes. Journal 1953-62 (This Flaming Straitjacket. Journal 1953-1962) published by La Table ronde in Paris in 1976.

    Wednesday 8 August. We sleep in Turin, at the municipal camping site, where I flirt with a French boy, very charming.

    Thursday 9 August. Night passed in a field, at the gates of Verona. […]   

    Between Chrysostome and me, the frankest friendship, without the shadow of an ambiguity. I guess that he’s homosexual, but he knows that I’m either heterosexual or susceptible to the charms of very young boys, and he will never make an equivocal gesture towards me. If I had the slightest doubt on this point, I would not go travelling with him. Thus, between us, a solid and complicit comradeship, which is the most dependable tie that can unite two human beings. [p. 301]

Matzneff and Chrysostome are now in Venice, where they camp by the seaside at the Lido:

    In the evenings, in St. Mark’s Square, Chrysostome and his friend Henri M. flirt hard, but it’s during the day, on the beach, that I meet my prey. To each his own timetable, further proof of the gulf between pedophilia and homosexuality.

    I’m not homosexual, and in all probability I never will be. I can’t imagine myself holding a man in my arms: it’s an absolute impossibility. [p. 302]

16 blond English by canal Venice 1960 d8

     I note that on the vaporetto which takes me back to the Lido, late at night. Breathless and delicious evening with the young English who pitched his tent next to mine. Chrysostom looked after his friend, who was older, and I looked after him, sixteen, blond, pink, leather shorts, adorable. At the end of the day, we persuaded them to come with us to Venice. It was a nerve-wracking evening. The perfumed atmosphere, the blare of the banda municipale, the brushes against each other, the barely begun caresses, and Henri M., whom we had to get rid of. Finally, seizing a propitious moment, I drag the kid along. At last we were alone. We cross St. Mark’s Square at a brisk pace. He takes my hand. We go down an alley. We came to a dark cul-de-sac that opened onto the shimmering waters of a canal. We couldn’t go any further, except to jump into the water. The boy leans against the wall. I press myself against him, grasp his curly head in my hands and kiss his lips. His body trembles against mine. He parted his lips and kissed me back. At the risk of being surprised, we... The pleasure builds, very quickly. Later, we meet Henri M. at the pier, on the Riva degli Schiavoni.

    Perhaps on another visit to Venice I would spend days on end in terrible solitude, sticking out my tongue. But it had been decided that this first trip to Venice would be a splendid one, full of happy encounters. On the day of the English schoolboy’s departure, the day after Geneviève’s, I met a fourteen-year-old blonde divinity on the Lido beach, exactly where Aschenbach dies in Thomas Mann’s novel. If I were to recount this adventure in a book, people would laugh, say that I was transposing and that my little girl was in fact a little boy. But it’s the truth: Pierrette is a girl, she’s a girl Tadzio. From Tadzio she has the age, blond hair, the incredible beauty; only the sex is different.

13 girl St. Marks Venice 1960 d2

    This morning I accompanied Pierrette (whom I call Petrushka) and her mother to Venice, where they want to go shopping. Furtively, I take the little girl’s hand in mine.
    In the evening, under the critical eye of Chrysostome who condemns my weakness […]. An evening stroll. We found ourselves at Saint Mark’s, sitting at the foot of one of the three masts planted in front of the cathedral. It is there, amidst the ballet of night owls, homosexuals and carabinieri that we kissed for the first time. Yes, Pierrette is Tadzio, but I’m happier than Aschenbach, because it’s a Tadzio I’m holding in my arms, whose fresh mouth I’m savouring, whose adolescent body I’m feeling.
    My first kisses with Geneviève on the Adriatic could have been on any beach, on any sea. The little English and Pierrette are memories that will forever be inseparable in my heart from Venice, from that special smell of warm August evenings in St. Mark’s Square, from the unique electricity of that place, from those black, rustling waters, from those funereal gondolas, from that Byzantine dream of marble and gold, from that unreal, oppressive and fabulous setting. [pp. 303-5]

One day just after this, Matzneff was naked with Pierrette in his tent, their bodies entwined and caressing, and he suddenly went too far for her, causing the furious girl to flee and leading to he and Chrysostome fleeing Venice the next day and returning to France.

Readers wishing to read Matzneff’s journals in chronological order should at this point return to This Flaming Straitjacket. Journal 1953-1962.


Second visit, July 1963

Matzneff was again in Venice for the second half of July. This visit was recorded in L’Archange aux pieds fourchus: Journal 1963-1964 (The Archangel with cloven hooves: Journal 1963-1964) published by La Table ronde in Paris in 1982.

12 in gondola 1960

     Renato, an adorable twelve-year-old kitten, never leaves my side. Since he doesn’t know French and I don’t know German (he’s Austrian), we use an Anglo-Italian lingo; but we mostly use the infinitely softer language of kissing. Renato is a sensual, caressing, voluptuous kid.

     20 July. Veglia del Redentore. I take part in the vigil in a gondola. Illuminations on the lagoon, and monster traffic jam. Renato, tight against me, opens his eyes wide. [...]

     July 22nd. With Renato’s father, I had a close call. It is my fake scoutmaster’s card, provided before my departure by J. C. A., which saved my skin. Prestige of the official stamp! Having admitted me as a pedagogue by profession, this moron stopped seeing it as a bad thing that Renato was always hanging around me. Now, if he caught me sodomising his son, he would think it was one of those “great games” that only scouts know about. As Montherlant[1] once told me, deadpan, “Scouting has rendered invaluable services to the cause!” [pp. 56-7]

Readers wishing to read Matzneff’s journals in chronological order should at this point return to The Archangel with Cloven Hooves, 1963-64.


Third visit, August 1971

From 12th August, Matzneff and his wife Tatiana spent about a fortnight in Venice. This visit was recorded in Élie et Phaéton. Journal 1970-1973 (Elijah and Phaethon. Journal 1970-1973), published by La Table ronde in Paris in 1991.

14 making pizzas 1960 d5

The first day, he reflected …

     Today, I’m thirty-five. If I’d been told on 12 August 1961 that in ten years I was going to love so many young beings, explore so many new countries, publish five books, I wouldn’t have believed it. In truth, ten years of profound happiness. [p. 151]

     Thursday 19 August. […]

     In this restaurant on the Lido where Tatiana and I often have lunch, the blond boy in charge of the pizzas is almost supernaturally beautiful. He is like a pensive angel. Too beautiful to be one of us. He hovers above this humanity of guzzlers with an airy grace. […]

     A young boy of about twelve with huge caviar-grey eyes. [pp. 156-7]

Continue to Elijah and Phaethon, 1970-73.


Fourth visit, June 1973

This visit was likewise recorded in Élie et Phaéton. Journal 1970-1973 (Elijah and Phaethon. Journal 1970-1973).

At Villasimius in the extreme south of Sardinia:

     Tuesday 12 [June. …] The boy at the inn: fourteen, stocky, superb brown skin, charming faun’s head. [p. 347]


Return to Elijah and Phaethon, 1970-73.





[1] The much older French writer and boysexual Henry de Montherlant, whose early friendship with Matzneff was described by the latter in his first journal.