Several short stories, or rather episodes, which still reveal Mauriac as a past master in setting down the confused, neurotic mechanisms of people in conflict. The two initial sketches return the reader to his most famous characterization, the directionless, frustrated Therese Desqueyroux. Insomnia is a brilliant portrait of a masochist seeking imaginary tortures and humiliations in a love affair. The fourth is an ironic satire of the decadent bourgecisie, the sacrifice of a life to a false front. If less substantial than some of his novels, by the very nature of the medium, there is still however a fluency, sensitivity and acuity, a knack of penetrating emotions to the quick unequalled by any French writer today.