That the winsome Tristane Banon resented her mother’s negligence and despised her father’s absence we can glean from her first novel, I Forgot to Kill Her. From her second work of autobiographical fiction, The Trapeze Artist, we learned that the young freelance writer grew up to be the kind of waifish beauty that older men like to keep under their wings and their sheets. She moved around the world of the Paris glitterati, as the weekly newsmagazine Marianne put it, like “a terribly fragile butterfly of the night.” But since Banon filed a criminal complaint in France two weeks ago against Dominique Strauss-Kahn alleging that he attempted to rape her in 2003, she has been studied by the French press like a praying mantis in a killing jar.
Strauss-Kahn, or DSK as he’s called, had already been disgraced in the United States for alleged criminal sexual assault and attempted rape of an African immigrant maid at the luxury Sofitel in Manhattan on May 14. The case forced his resignation as managing director of the International Monetary Fund and almost certainly ended his hopes to one day be the president of France. Then, just as problems with the maid’s credibility looked likely to set Strauss-Kahn free, at least, Banon resurrected her oft-told and previously oft-ignored tale of horror at his hands eight years ago: “I pulled back, pulled back some more and fell on the floor,” she wrote in chapter 13 of The Trapeze Artist (2006), which even Banon’s lawyer refers to as a reasonable representation of her encounter with Strauss-Kahn in an almost-empty Left Bank flat. “He follows me down. He plays; he sniggers. He imposes on me, too close, his pig’s head.” And it gets more sordid still.
But nobody was quite prepared for the latest twist on the French end of the DSK soap opera this morning: the respected weekly l’Express is now reporting on its website that Banon’s mother, Anne Mansouret, 65, told detectives that she herself had sex—consensual but “brutal” sex—with DSK in the Paris office of an international organization one day in 2000. And according to the same report that is one reason that when Mansouret’s daughter came to her in 2003 asking her what to do after the alleged DSK attack, Mansouret discouraged her from pressing charges. Mansouret didn’t want to tell her about the earlier incident.
The convoluted concupiscent relationships in this modern bodice-ripper are worthy of the pulp fiction that people these days like to read ever so discreetly on their Kindles. Strauss-Kahn’s second wife, Brigitte Guillemette, is a good friend of Mansouret and the godmother of Banon, now 32. One of Banon’s best friends, at least until recently, was Camille Strauss-Kahn, the daughter of Guillemette and DSK. Since police opened their investigations into the Banon allegations, they have interviewed Banon, Guillemette, Camille Strauss-Kahn, and Mansouret, among others. (DSK cannot leave the United States pending further investigation of the Sofitel maid’s allegations.)
Brigitte Guillemette, DSK’s second wife, will reportedly be suing Anne Mansouret, Banon’s mother, for defamation. According to Le Parisien newspaper, Guillemette “denies having been aware of the alleged inappropriate behavior of her ex-husband toward female students when he was teaching at Nanterre University, as Anne Mansouret indicated in her declarations to police when she was questioned.” Guillemette also denies, Le Parisien says, “phoning Anne Mansouret several times on the subject and enquiring as to whether Tristane envisaged pressing charges or not.”
L’Express seems to have gotten its hands on an almost verbatim account of Mansouret’s six-hour-long session with detectives on July 13. Mansouret, like Strauss-Kahn, is a member of the French Socialist Party. But while he was on the fast track for the French presidency before the Sofitel scandal broke, she only entered politics after a career in public relations and now serves in the regional government of part of Normandy.
At the hearing with police, according to l’Express, Mansouret told detectives something she had never before revealed to her daughter. Strauss-Kahn had had sex with her in an office of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) when he served as a consultant there in 2000. Looking back on that incident and on what allegedly happened to her daughter three years later, Mansouret reportedly told investigators she wanted to do away with the notion promoted by Strauss-Kahn’s friends that he is an inveterate seducer and a ladies’ man, but essentially harmless. “At 65, after a very full love life and three husbands,” writes l’Express, “Anne Mansouret describes DSK, on the contrary, as a predator who doesn’t look to please but to take, and conducts himself with ‘the obscenity of a boor.’ ”
L’Express reports that after the incident with Banon in 2003, Mansouret told Guillemette about it, and Guillemette called Strauss-Kahn. Mansouret claims that DSK told his ex-wife, “I don’t know what got hold of me. I bedded the mother and I snapped when I saw the daughter,” according to L’Express.
DSK’s lawyers did not immediately react to the l’Express article, but they have already brought suit against Banon for libel. Strauss-Kahn told a sympathetic biographer the whole incident with Banon as depicted by the young novelist was “imaginary.” But, then, the book in which that statement was published is called The True Novel of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. (The French, it seems, just can’t quit playing with then notion of true lies.) Guillemette told l’Express firmly that “all of that [alleged by Banon and Mansouret] is false and that is what we explained to the investigators.”
Just about the only element missing from this pot-boiler narrative is physical evidence, or at least DNA. Banon’s lawyer, David Koubbi, won’t go into specifics, but it’s been widely reported that electronic records of emails, phone messages, or texts may be presented to investigators. It’s not just he-said-she-said, Koubbi told THE DAILY BEAST: “The dossier is not empty.”
Koubbi added that he was a little irritated that many reporters seemed to think the only way to convict Strauss-Kahn in France would be to turn up some biological evidence.
“People say, ‘But after eight years there is no fluid, there’s no more sperm, there are no more injuries,’” said the famously flamboyant Koubbi. “But rape and attempted rape existed long before DNA was ever discovered. There were plenty of women who were raped before DNA was used in scientific police work. I understand that there are television series that are very exciting and that make it look as if you can only know who raped whom, who killed whom, if you have DNA. But you can do otherwise. And that’s why French lawmakers allow victims to wait as long as 10 years to file a complaint. If not, you’d only have the time to file before you took your next shower, or for as long as you kept the sperm on you.”
The maid in New York, in fact, had just that kind of evidence. On both sides of the Atlantic, it looks like the DSK saga has many more chapters to come.