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Peyrefitte, Roger (1907-2000)  
 
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As one of the most famous homosexuals in France in the latter half of the twentieth century, Roger Peyrefitte, the best-selling author of both novels and gossipy non-fiction, shaped the public perception of homosexuals in the days before gay liberation. He became an object of ridicule and derision to and gay liberationists alike.

The French public saw him as a cultured, supercilious, snobby, and waspish "folle" ("queen") or "tante" ("auntie") who preyed on underage adolescents. And despite Peyrefitte's claim to be serving the homosexual cause, by the 1970s most gay men and lesbians found him something of an embarrassment.

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Peyrefitte was born in Castres in southwestern France on August 17, 1907 and educated in Catholic boarding schools in the region. The most lasting effect of this religious education was his life-long hostility to the Roman Catholic Church. He went on to study at the University of Toulouse and the prestigious Sciences Po' (the Free School for Political Sciences) in Paris.

He had his first homosexual experience at eighteen and thereafter led an active sex life, hunting for teenage boys across Europe. He also had occasional affairs with women, whom (by his own account) he introduced to the delights of anal sex.

Peyrefitte entered the French diplomatic service in 1931 and served as secretary at the French embassy in Athens from 1933 to 1938. Forced to resign in October 1940 because of his relations with a fourteen-year-old boy, he was recalled to duty three years later to serve the collaborationist Vichy government in German-occupied Paris.

After the Liberation, France's provisional government dismissed him on suspicion of collaborationism in February 1945. Peyrefitte later appealed his dismissal and the Council of State finally ruled in his favor in 1962, but the Foreign Ministry refused to reintegrate him. He was by then, in any case, a professional writer with no desire to return to state service.

Peyrefitte's first, best, and best-known novel, Les Amitiés Particulières (translated into English as Special Friendships), tells the story of love between two teenage boys in a Catholic boarding school. The book may have been based on his own experience. Peyrefitte later explained, "I was a young diplomat, and I wanted to show the origin of those things [i.e. homosexuality]: that it was not simply under the influence of a disgusting adult that young boys could feel that sort of attraction."

Critically well-received, the novel won the Prix Renaudot. It caused a first scandal when it appeared in 1944 and a second when made into a movie in 1964.

After François Mauriac (1885-1970), winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1952, attacked the film as immoral, Peyrefitte shocked the French literary world by accusing Mauriac of concealing his own homosexual tendencies and by taxing the respected author with hypocrisy.

During the making of the film, Peyrefitte befriended a twelve-year-old extra, Alain-Philippe Malagnac, who eventually became the great love of his life as well as his secretary and business partner.

The success of the Peyrefitte's first novel, the resulting notoriety, and his dismissal from the foreign service coalesced to lead him to devote himself entirely to literary pursuits. In the words of fellow writer Yvon Audouard, "He took up literature the way others take up religion."

In the course of his long life (he died at 93), Peyrefitte published dozens of books, including numerous novels, a three-volume fictionalized biography of Alexander the Great, and two volumes on Voltaire (whom he claimed to have been homosexual). He also wrote about Baron Jacques d'Adelsward-Fersen's exile in Capri (L'Exilé de Capri, 1959) and translated Greek love poetry.

Much of his work provoked scandal. In 1965, for instance, Les Juifs (The Jews), in which he revealed the Jewish ancestry of important people around the word, brought charges of anti-Semitism and a judicial order to excise a page that mentioned a member of the Rothschild family.

Peyrefitte infuriated the Vatican with The Keys of Saint-Peter in 1955 (the Church accused him of offending religion and the priesthood); and by declaring in 1976 that Pope Paul VI had once been a practicing homosexual.

He was sued successfully by Marlene Dietrich for suggesting in Les Américains (1968) that she had been a supporter of Hitler.

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