The Graduate, kept young male movie-goers titillated for years. Byron did the same in Don Juan, as did Stendhal in Scarlet and Black, and Bernard Schlink in The Reader. The dynamic has always inspired the artistic imagination, but no written account goes into as much depth as Stephen Vizinczey's era-transcending, In Praise of Older Women, re-released this week as a Penguin Classic.
The best-selling book, which was originally published in 1965 and has sold more than five million copies worldwide, must have provoked a veritable glut of misalliances after its narrator, Andras Vajda, described in enchanting detail his discovery that the embraces of older women are infinitely preferable to those of younger girls.
Forty-five years after penning those lines, the Hungarian-born Vizinczey, now 76, remains ardent on the subject. "To be a young man and have a grown woman as your lover is not just sexy, it is paradise," he says. "That's what my novel is about. Women start at 30 and just get better."
"The sex appeal of a woman has very little to do with the kind of things magazines talk about. It doesn't have much to do with big breasts, small breasts, – the most important part of sex appeal is humanity, an affectionate nature, intelligence. Allure certainly has very little to do with clothes. Isn't a woman best dressed when she is naked?"
Germaine Greer. the author of The Female Eunuch maintains, "older men sit in judgment, but boys don't do that. They are able to admire a woman for what she has achieved."
So are these older women liberated or damaged? Women in the public eye, Vizinczey shrugs, "are financially independent and therefore can defy convention, but women who cannot afford to defy convention have to do it in secret or be labelled predators".
The only way to banish this last taboo is to be proud of who you are – be proud of your relationship – stop listening to what other people say and just enjoy the love you have today.