Much of the action of this book, subtitled Extracts from a Journal, seems to take place in the mirror of literature, not the arena of life. Thus, in its pages, Gide and the two Mauriacs (young Claude and his famous father) and other inhabitants of France's cultural Olympus, circa 1938-39, continue to define and clarify themselves. They discuss problems of engagement and belief, thought and expression, provide keys to fictional relationships (Passavant-Cocteau) and actual events (the child Gide denied his wife he had by another woman). They accuse each other of various crimes, question each other, and especially the twenty-four year old Claude, as to the indiscretions they are most likely to commit, balance awe with irritation, affection with respect, are read to, prayed for, warned against and even shocked by one another. For Mauriac, ""the only value this journal has is that my testimony in good faith obeys the hypothesis that people must be taken seriously."" For Gide, ""Is there any worse stupidity, anything more laughable than quoting oneself?"" For both, the mirror of reflection becomes the means by which consciousness continues its action, in the face of the splendor and terror of naked reality. Both, rejecting the elder Mauriac's system of belief, since, for them, ""desire cannot create its own object,"" yet find, in the creation of the self through the scrupulous examination of consciousness, a power which transcends the distinction between life and literature. The book shares this power.