Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)
ph_0111201634-Cocteau.jpg Jean Cocteau Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Jean Cocteau took considerable delight in working on the borderlines separating various literary genres and those traditionally dividing literature from the other arts. As a result, his artistic output is both extraordinary and difficult to classify. Le Potomak (1919), his first important work, moves freely among verse, prose, dialogue, and drawing. His novel Les Enfants terribles (1929; Children of the Game, 1955), generally considered to be his masterpiece, is as much autobiography as fiction. He wrote magnificent poems, such as La Crucifixion (1946), but he also insisted that his novels, his criticism, in fact, all his works, are poetry. Many of his works for the stage can be called drama in only the broadest sense of the term: An example of such works is the scandalous ballet scenario Parade (1917), created in collaboration with Eric Satie and Pablo Picasso, and performed by Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. In 1921, Cocteau collaborated with six composers of the group known as “Les Six” (they included Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, Germaine Tailleferre, Georges Auric, and Francis Poulenc) and the Swedish Ballet Company in creating Les Mariés de la tour Eiffel (1921; The Wedding on the Eiffel Tower, 1937), this time contributing to the choreography as well as the dialogue. Cocteau also created a number of original and highly regarded films, beginning with La Sang d’un poète (1930; The Blood of a Poet, 1932), and including, among others, La Belle et la bête (1946; Beauty and the Beast, 1947) and Orphée (1950; Orpheus, 1950). Cocteau also wrote many witty, incisive nonfiction works, often autobiographical in nature; Opium: Journal d’une désintoxication (1930; Opium: Diary of a Cure, 1932) and La Belle et la bête: Journal d’un film (1946; Beauty and the Beast: Journal of a Film, 1950) are examples of his work in this area. Much of his work was experimental and often designed to shock, to break new ground and redefine the old.