Journal I is a story of revewal--of the new life that began for Mircea Eliade in the fall of 1945 when he became an expatriate. Eliade came to Paris virtually empty-handed, following the death of his first wife and the Soviet takeover of Romania, which made him a persona non grata there. He had left half a lifetime in Romania: his parents, whom he never saw again; his library; unpublished and unfinished manuscripts, including the journal notebooks prior to 1940; an academic career; and Zalmoxis, the journal of religious studies he founded. During the lean years in Paris Eliade lived and worked in small, cold rooms; prepared meals on a Primus stove; pawned his valuables; and asked friends for loans. Eventually he secured a research stipend from the Bollingen Foundation. His ten years in Paris were among his most productive; the books he wrote during this period brought him worldwide acclaim as a historian of religions. He records his first meetings with Carl Jung, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Gershom Scholem, Georges Bataille, Andr Breton, Raffaele Pettazzoni, and many other scholars and writers.
Eliade also continued to write literary works. Numerous entries describe his five-year struggle with his novel The Forbidden Forest. Spanning the twelve fateful years from 1936 to 1948, it expresses within a fictional framework the central themes of Eliade's work on religions. Writing the novel was a Herculean task in which Eliade summarized and memorialized his old Romanian life.