Sex tourism book returns to haunt French minister
France's culture minister, already under fire for defending Roman Polanski, was attacked on Wednesday for his four-year-old "autobiographical novel" whose hero indulges in sex tourism.
Frederic Mitterrand, the 62-year-old nephew of late president Francois Mitterrand, last week denounced the Franco-Polish film maker's arrest on a three decade-old US warrant for sex with a 13-year-old girl as "horrifying".
Mitterrand's defence of Polanksi called attention to his book, described by its publisher as a "novel of autobiographical inspiration", in which the first-person narrator recounts sexual adventures with Thai boys.
"At a time when France is engaged with Thailand to fight against the curse of sex tourism, here we have a government minister who himself explains that he is a consumer," opposition Socialist party spokesman Benoit Hamon told AFP.
On Tuesday, the far-right National Front party called for Mitterrand's resignation, saying his 2005 book "La Mauvaise Vie" ("The Bad Life") had left "an indelible stain on the government."
The minister who, despite his political lineage, never became a card-carrying Socialist, previously had a successful career as a writer, documentary-maker and television presenter.
The passages in "The Bad Life" that have sparked controversy deal with the hero's visits to brothels and boy bars in South East Asia.
The hero describes the mixture of feverish excitement and guilt he feels as he hands over money for sex with boys whose age he does not state.
"The profusion of boys who are very attractive and immediately available puts me in a state of desire that I longer need to curb or hide," Mitterrand writes.
Mitterrand responded to Wednesday's attacks by saying that it was an "honour to be dragged through the mud" by the extreme right but that he found it shameful for the left to find common cause with Le Pen's attack.
When Polanski, who lives in Paris, was detained in Switzerland, Mitterrand called the arrest "absolutely horrifying" and said it showed "a side of America which is frightening."
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner wrote to US authorities to ask for the charges against Polanski to be dropped.
Last week, however, the French government backed away from support for Polanski, with its spokesman saying the Oscar-winning director was not "above the law."
The 76-year-old fled the United States in 1978 after pleading guilty to "unlawful sexual intercourse" with a 13-year-old girl.