Much of Children of the Game is drawn from Cocteau’s experiences from 1900 through 1903 as an unhappy student at the “Petit Condorcet,” a college in the rue Amsterdam. Indeed, the opening description of a visit to the Cité des Monthiers, a hidden courtyard of artists within an international diplomatic neighborhood of Paris, is a recollection of many such visits that Cocteau himself made with school friends. Cocteau uses the same autobiographical material in his The Blood of a Poet, which represents a development of ideas raised by Children of the Game, and in the famous film noir version directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. The symbolic meanings that will be assigned to the later cinematographic versions of the story are already present in the story of these children, who, Cocteau will say later in his journals, did not recognize their own poetry, who “were not playing horses but actually became horses.”
Written in three weeks in 1929 while Cocteau was being treated for opium addiction, the novel focuses on the theme of the adolescent, a new creation of the years following the end of World War I, whose sense of prestige and freedom in the first half of the decade would decay into disenchantment in the second half. The plot of the novel itself is simple and absolute in its construction, revolving around the promise made between Paul and Elisabeth to adhere to a pact, which excludes the rest of the world and love. They are “angelic,” in the sense of being both innocent and uncompromising. For a few years, they are granted a carefree life in their...
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