But then Pivot turns to a woman who has so far been silent, a Canadian writer called Denise Bombardier, and the atmosphere suddenly changes.
“I feel like I am living on a different planet,” says Bombardier coldly. And she launches into a devastating attack on her neighbour.
Does he not understand anything about the rights of children, she asks. Has it never occurred to him that these young girls may end up damaged?
“For me, Mr Matzneff is abject. We all know how some girls can become besotted by men with a certain literary aura,” says Bombardier.
“Some older men like to attract little children with sweets. Mr Matzneff does it with his reputation.”
It is a measure of the extraordinary rapidity of moral change in our times that none of this could conceivably happen today.
By no stretch of the imagination could a contemporary author write so blithely of his seduction of underage girls – and, in Matzneff’s case, of boys too.
And even if he did, there would certainly be no-one leaping to his defence, accusing his detractors – like they accused Bombardier 30 years ago – of reactionary neo-Puritanism and failing to understand the wellsprings of teenage sexuality.
And yet just a generation ago, evidently, the idea of sex between adult men and adolescent girls was not only not shocking – in “enlightened” circles, that is. More than that, it was seen as liberating for the youngsters themselves – a final casting off of the sexual bonds imposed by the old pre-1968 order.