A pedophile writer is on trial. So are the French elites.

“He should be in jail,” a lone critical voice, Denis Tillinac, an editor at La Table Ronde who refused to publish Mr. Matzneff’s diaries, recalled recently. “But no, he’s not in jail, he’s welcomed and pampered by the president of the Republic, Mitterrand.”

The most public criticism came in 1990, on the literary television show “Apostrophes,” as the host and guests discussed Mr. Matzneff’s latest diary, “Mes Amours Décomposés,” (“My Decomposed Loves.”) In it, he boasted about having sex with countless minors, including 11- and 12-year-old Filipino boys he describes as “a rare spice.”

The single foreigner present, Denise Bombardier, a journalist from Quebec, denounced his pedophilia.

The reaction from France’s intelligentsia was swift.

Josyane Savigneau, who was editor of a literary supplement of the French newspaper Le Monde from 1991 to 2005, publicly chided Ms. Bombardier and defended Mr. Matzneff’s work.