Read Les Enfants Terribles by Jean Cocteau Online

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Les Enfants Terribles holds an undisputed place among the classics of modern fiction. Written in a French style that long defied successful translation - Cocteau was always a poet no matter what he was writing - the book came into its own for English-language readers in 1955 when the present version was completed by Rosamond Lehmann. It is a masterpiece of the art of transLes Enfants Terribles holds an undisputed place among the classics of modern fiction. Written in a French style that long defied successful translation - Cocteau was always a poet no matter what he was writing - the book came into its own for English-language readers in 1955 when the present version was completed by Rosamond Lehmann. It is a masterpiece of the art of translation of which the Times Literary Supplement said: "It has the rare merit of reading as though it were an English original." Miss Lehmann was able to capture the essence of Cocteau's strange, necromantic imagination and to bring fully to life in English his story of a brother and sister, orphaned in adolescence, who build themselves a private world out of one shared room and their own unbridled fantasies. What started in games and laughter became for Paul and Elisabeth a drug too magical to resist. The crime which finally destroyed them has the inevitability of Greek tragedy. Illustrated with twenty of Cocteau's own drawings....

Title : Les Enfants Terribles
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 13626354
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 177 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Les Enfants Terribles Reviews

  • Warwick
    2019-03-23 04:59

    When me and my sister were younger – like four and five, or five and six – we used to play these epic games in the back seat of our parents' car on long journeys. The car was a big old Citroën estate, like the vehicle from Ghostbusters, and the back seat folded down to form a huge play area (this was before anyone bothered about seat-belts in the back).The games we played were incomprehensible to everyone but ourselves, and now we're older they've grown incomprehensible to us too. All I can remember are a few titles. One game was called ‘Baby in Australia’, which – bizarrely – was about a baby travelling around the United States having adventures. It was like Rugrats meets The Littlest Hobo. I'm not quite sure why we gave this such a confusing name. Another, more logically titled, game was called ‘Strongbaby’ (one word), and involved a baby with superhuman strength. I'm not certain now to what use an infant would really put Hulk-like strength, nor for that matter why we were both so obsessed with babies. But mothers and fathers reading this will readily appreciate that our own parents were happy to tolerate what appeared to be incipient psychological problems on the grounds that it kept us quiet for the length of a three-hour jaunt up the A1M.I hadn't thought about this for years. Then I read Les Enfants terribles and it all came flooding back. If you've read the book this may sound alarming, but fortunately in our case it apparently never went further than a lot of weirdly regimented transport-based role-plays. For Paul and Élisabeth, the central characters of Cocteau's dark and dreamy novel, the shared world of childhood fantasy takes on a more all-consuming and sinister aspect.Orphaned twins, they construct a haven of their own in their dead mother's apartment on the rue Montmartre (just round the corner from where I work), where their room is all low lighting, red textiles, pictures pinned up from newspapers, and a collection of hoarded ‘treasure’ brought back from the outside world. Here, in the middle of the night, the teenagers play what is only ever referred to as ‘the game’, a sort of never-ending psychological test of one-upmanship which governs their entire lives: the game is nothing less than a ‘semi-consciousness into which the children plunged’, which ‘dominated space and time; it initiated dreams, blended them with reality’.Outsiders are brought into this private world, but they are always ultimately cat's-paws used by one sibling to get at the other. The self-imposed rituals are about domination, and there is a crackle of erotic charge everywhere: indeed at times this reads like the most literary treatment of D/S ever made. This is not to say that the book is about sex; it is much more oblique and remarkable than that. In one extraordinary scene, Élisabeth waits until Paul is just dropping off to sleep, and then, at three in the morning, she suddenly produces a bowl of crayfish from under her bed and starts eating them, ignoring Paul's anxious requests for her to share.‘Gérard,’ [she says to Paul's schoolfriend who is with them,] ‘do you know of anything more depraved that some sixteen-year-old kid reduced to asking for a crayfish? He'd lick the rug, don't you know, he'd crawl on all fours. No! Don't give it to him, let him get up, let him come here! He's so vile, this gangling great oaf who refuses to move, dying for nice food but not able to make the effort. It's because I'm ashamed for him that I'm refusing to give him a crayfish….’ —Gérard, connaissez-vous une chose plus abjecte qu'un type de seize ans qui s'abaisse à demander une écrevisse? Il lécherait la carpette, vous savez, il marcherait à quatre pattes. Non ! ne la lui portez pas, qu'il se lève, qu'il vienne ! C'est trop infecte, à la fin, cette grande bringue qui refuse de bouger, qui crève de gourmandise et qui ne peut pas faire un effort. C'est parce que j'ai honte pour lui que je lui refuse une écrevisse….An hour later, when Paul finally gives up and goes to sleep, Élisabeth wakes him and forces him to eat the crayfish, ‘breaking the carapace, pushing the flesh between his teeth’ as Paul struggles to chew while half-asleep: ‘grave, patient, hunched over, she resembled a madwoman force-feeding a dead child.’It's an incredible scene the like of which I've never read anywhere else, and all described in this beautiful, verbally rich, precise Coctellian prose. The oppressive and erotic atmosphere is picked up on later by one of Élisabeth's friends, who is pining submissively after Paul: she ‘thrilled to be a victim because she felt the room to be full of an amorous electricity whose most brutal shocks were made inoffensive’. The novel's dénouement is going to prove her horribly wrong on this point.The conclusion is dark and very French: the quasi-incestuous power-play cannot survive impact with adulthood, and implodes with considerable collateral damage. But how difficult for a writer to enter into this private world of childhood fantasy, and how perfectly Cocteau pulls it off. Some of his lines froze me with horrified delight: when the children find their mother dead in her room, the body is described as a ‘petrified scream’ – ‘ce Voltaire furieux qu'ils ne connaissent pas’. He combines the eye of a poet with a good novelist's willingness to examine the psychic areas usually left unexamined.This year marks fifty years since Cocteau's death, and it's a good excuse to try him out if you haven't yet (as I hadn't until recently). Reading this is like having a beautiful dream that modulates into a beautiful nightmare. I kind of want to send a copy to my own sister, but I can't help feeling like that might be in bad taste.

  • Mariel
    2019-03-09 04:00

    I can see myself becoming part of the room. The two sets of grandparents in their big bed they never leave from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory appealed to me. I would have sat by their one-bed-fits-all and listened to them bicker. Words of wisdom, or in another conversation entirely, as was the case with one of the grandmothers. I don't need the chocolate (I didn't say I didn't want it!) but I need those grandparents and their world within a world (the poorest shack in the coldest town where the one bright spot is a factory. You bet I'd stay in bed all day!). I can see myself taking over the room. Move aside, Paul and Elisabeth, those grim children with untrue smiles. They had photographs of romantic profiles that suggest to them the hazy outer edges of dreams they are too afraid to allow a full shape. The room is a suggestion. If the real world knocked on its door it would not be allowed to enter. I guess they are like religious people who wait for the return of Christ, or millennium party goers, or Elijah the Prophet's hosts or women who sit on the uncomfortable sofa when they've been obviously stood up. Justin Bieber's whole fan base. I have more dreams than the four young people put together. Is that something to brag about? Frail bodied, mortally wounded soul (it's just a scratch), and feeling all of the time how I feel when I'm flu dreamy Paul. Elisabeth who would take too heart way too much that George Michael song about the sister preacher teacher put your tiny hand in mind. It's just a song! Faith, too. Butt in tight jeans and all. Agatha the professional mannequin. Agatha the.... yeah, mannequin. She'd be in the window of the room, if they had one to the world. Facing the street and brother and sister take turns dressing it up with how they want the room to look that dad. Gerard... The eyes in the audience. Was it a good show that night? Did shoulders rub together (did anyone grab your butt? No? Poor thing)? I would have put things in the treasure drawer. I would have taken over and put them all into position to take part in my own plays of distraction. I hope I'd find the muster to leave. Teen girls lose interest in the cute one, the sweet one, the dark one, the... I forget. There should be more than once face. No more toys in the toy box. There weren't more ways to skin a cat (someone said this to me a couple of days ago. I backed away slowly). They didn't find new images to stretch out like water filling other shapes. The vampire teeth hooked in more, more, more to get through blended days didn't suck something else. I would have been in the room (I am a vampire) and they didn't take me down with them. I wish (not really. Then The Holy Terrors would have disturbed me instead of just fascinated me) I had been taken down too. Why didn't I need it? I recognize the fairy tale desire without it being my own. Rosamond Lehmann translated! I somehow didn't realize this until I actually picked up the book to read (it had been sitting on my bookshelves for some time). Lehmann wrote Invitation to the Waltz and The Weather in the Streets (she wrote a lot more but these are the two that I've read). She's great. It's interesting to me how not like her own books her translation is (this means she's really good, right?). I am also thinking a lot about those books and how much "I wish that she had read more books so she could live in those instead of with lifeless real people" I felt about Olivia from those books. Maybe Lehmann started to wish that too, if this is how she read this story. The room and the fire need more, more, more to burn. The more isn't the outsiders of Agatha and Gerard. It's not the two sided face on brother and sister. Agatha with the same face as Paul's only recurring dream of the boy who happened to throw the snowball to invalidate him. It would have happened anyway, like an avalanche. If you're going to live in a room you need to find some way to leave it if it's going to keep you alive. I abandoned the sinking ship. Anyway, Lehmann is great and so is Cocteau. And I still need more. And I have a lot.There's a chance I'm just messed up and the room wasn't supposed to be attractive. Don't tell me if that's the case.

  • Scribble Orca
    2019-03-15 00:01

    Midsummer Night's Dream machinations (with a little Anthony and Cleopatra mixed in for good measure) between any two of Cathy and Heathcliff, Laon and Cythna, (oh why not throw in a few of the Greek Pantheon as well - although they did more than just mess with each other's minds and really, who cared back then anyway) shot in very sexy black and white and accompanied by a stunning selection from Vivaldi and Bach. Not long on ambiguity, plenty of nods to Freudian concocteauns, marvelous narration from Jean himself. Adair's commentary is a wonderful recording of his voice.

  • Steve
    2019-03-18 07:12

    Cette espèce de confort n'influençait guère les enfants, car ils avaient le leur et il n'était pas de ce monde.(This kind of comfort hardly influenced the children, because they had their own and it wasn't of this world.)Not of this world, truly. Paul and Elisabeth, brother and sister, 14 and 16 years old at the beginning of the story, are an inseparable binary system with a satellite, Gérard, 14, caught fatefully in their gravitational well. Through a series of credible circumstances, Paul and Elisabeth find themselves alone with Gérard (and, towards the end, with Agathe), without close relatives, cloistered in their joint bedroom and falling deeper and deeper into the black hole of obsession, love and cruelty binding them together. From the apparently innocent beginning in a snowball fight to the horrific end some three years later, every step seems perfectly possible, indeed, seems increasingly necessary and fated. A doom had been spoken upon them.Jean Cocteau's mature prose style is characterized by brevity and precision, by aphorism and energy. Also, usually, by an unmistakable touch of lyric poetry. In Les enfants terribles (1929) he reduces the dosage of poetry significantly in favor of brevity, precision and energy. Though sometimes adopting an ironic distanceSeule à la maison, Elisabeth prenait au coin des meubles ses attitudes hautaines.(Alone in the house, Elisabeth would strike her haughty poses in the corners of the furniture.)for some comic relief, Cocteau's prose enters more and more fully into the claustrophobic world of the ripening children, taking the reader with it. Some gestures are made by one or the other to escape this world, but they are made primarily to wound the other, to acquire an advantage, a power over the other, just as Agathe and Gérard are only pawns in their mutual game of love/hate. Whatever gestures are made every day, late every night they re-enter their private world, the only one that really matters. To emphasize the ineluctability of this private world, Cocteau inserts a deus ex machina, Michael, who disturbs that world, and whips him away to Isadora Duncan's death almost immediately. The private world is reinstated in a new location. The doom must be fulfilled.(*)(*) In his Opium, Cocteau writes that Les enfants terribles was "born in 17 days" during one of his many rehabilitations from opium addiction, when opium's power "to give form to the formless" coincided with the return of his ability and desire to communicate with others (both of which disappeared when he was deep within the power of the opium). Rating http://leopard.booklikes.com/post/829...

  • [P]
    2019-03-13 07:00

    I thought the cliché that adults don’t understand children was untrue until I spent a year or two teaching. Having no young relatives, it was the first time I had been around them since my own childhood, and, more importantly, it was the first time I had frequent discussions about them with other adults. And I was astonished by how naïve the adults, in particular the parents, were, how totally, how greedily, they swallowed and regurgitated the idea that these kids were innocence personified, that they were incapable of, and uninterested in, anything dubious, even when presented with concrete, and sizeable, evidence to the contrary.Being in that environment I would, naturally, regularly think back to my own youth, to the fights that were more bloody and savage than any I have seen or been involved in since, to the sexual experimentation, and the promiscuity, that would make a decadent Parisian author blush, to the ever revolving carousel of gangs, friends and enemies, to the appalling cruelty and the intense bonds, and the complex games that lasted for weeks, which often involved malevolently stalking each other through the woods. The only innocence was in the lack of understanding regarding what exactly all this stuff meant; you didn’t psychoanalyse, introspect, or define or make connections. You didn’t, for example, call what you felt love or happiness or hate, you simply felt; and you accepted, without question, that this was the world, never giving a thought to the existence of another world, the world of your parents.One man who did know a thing or two about all this was French author, filmmaker, and artist, Jean Cocteau, whose most well-known work is the one under here. Les Enfants Terribles begins in Balzacian style, with Cocteau describing a peaceful scene, into which he then places a group of schoolboys, who ‘shatter the silence with the sound of tumult.’ Note the choice of words: ‘shatter,’ ‘tumult’; Cocteau wants to impress upon the reader that there is something brutal, a kind of violence, in the behaviour. By the end of the passage he has gone even further, describing the boys, and by extension all children, as ‘terrors’ with ‘animal instincts,’ a theme he pursues throughout the rest of his short novel. Indeed, when he introduces one of the main characters, Paul, he is hit with a snowball containing a stone and ends up badly hurt.“At all costs the true world of childhood must prevail, must be restored; that world whose momentous, heroic, mysterious quality is fed on airy nothings, whose substance is so ill-fitted to withstand the brutal touch of adult inquisition.”As the novel progresses the focus narrows until it is concerned with four people only, Paul and Elisabeth, who are brother and sister, and Agatha and Gerard; although the two siblings are, of course, the dominant force. But before focussing on them myself, I want to linger a little longer over the opening passage, because, once again, what the author describes here plays a central role in the rest of the text. Cocteau emphasises the schoolboys’ imaginative capacity as they transform the peaceful scene into an ‘Athlete’s stadium,’ or a ‘Wonder fair,’ or ‘Court of love’; the world, he suggests, isn’t for children something that is fixed, it is whatever they want it to be. But this world is insular, it, in a sense, excludes adults, with it having its own ‘cryptic language’, secret rites, etc. In a nice touch, Cocteau imagines a group of painters opening their windows and looking out at the boys and not recognising them as the subject of their sentimental paintings, titled things like Merry Wee Rascals and Play In A White World.After the incident with the snowball Gerard takes an ailing Paul home, and in the back of the cab we get the first reference to the Game, when Gerard wonders if Paul is genuinely as hurt as he appears to be. His suspicion is that he may be ‘putting it on,’ which of course gives the impression that this would not be out of character. Both Paul and Elisabeth, it becomes clear, live a life somewhere between fantasy and reality. They adopt poses and attitudes, set each other [and Gerard] challenges, act out roles, etc.; their relationship is extremely close, but dominated by a kind of one-upmanship and a desire to exasperate or irritate the other. To return to what I wrote earlier regarding innocence, the siblings are innocent only in so much as they lack self-awareness. Numerous times Cocteau states that they are not conscious of the game-playing or the acting; he also mentions how Gerard felt something of ‘perversion or necrophilly in the delicious pleasures’ of travelling with Paul, but would never have thought about it, or understood it, in those terms. And so one sees the term ‘innocent’ as being defined by a kind of ignorance rather than goodness.[From the film of the same name, which was also written by Jean Cocteau]Despite giving the impression, with that brilliant opening, that the book was to be about the strange, savage nature of children in general, with, one assumed, the siblings being held up as an example, Cocteau rather ruins this interpretation [which, by the way, I preferred] by giving Paul and Elisabeth a background or history that justifies or explains their behaviour and approach and ideas. In short, he reveals that both their father and mother were neglectful and wild, and so one understands that the offspring of this couple have grown up without appropriate adult role models, and that they have been, to all intents and purposes, left to themselves to raise themselves; indeed, the author refers to an ‘inheritance of instability’. What this means for Les Entants Terribles is that it becomes particular; in other words, whatever it says about the two main characters can only be applied to these children in these circumstances or, at best, other children in similar circumstances. As hinted, I think it was a poor decision to take the novel in this direction, and, moreover, I’m not entirely certain it was Cocteau’s intention.Another issue I had was with the author’s lack of subtlety or faith in his audience. At times it is as though he didn’t trust the reader to join the dots, to understand his work, and so repeatedly chimes in with unnecessary exposition, mostly in relation to the children’s lack of consciousness or self-awareness. In fact, there is a point in the text when he prefaces yet another reference to this with the phrase ‘it must be remembered’ as though there is any way even the dimmest reader could have forgotten when Les Enfants Terribles is less than one hundred pages long and he had already made the same point, in almost exactly the same words, about five or six times. Moreover, these infuriating authorial intrusions added to what was, for me, the book’s biggest flaw, which is that it feels more like a sketch, or draft, of a novel than one that is fully realised.Before concluding, I want to comment on the style, because much is made of it in the reviews that I have so far encountered, with the word ‘beautiful’ being the most popular descriptor. Well, I didn’t find the writing beautiful. I would go with something like ‘overwrought,’ although I ought to point out that this isn’t necessarily a criticism. While it is not my favourite, I’m not at all opposed to a bit of ornate, bells-and-whistles prose from time to time. What I found more impressive was the symbolism. The book begins with snow, and there are numerous references to it throughout; the siblings are also said to be both extremely pale, and both wear white clothes [dressing gowns? I can’t remember] at various points. White is, of course, representative of innocence, but it is commonly associated with the spectral too. There are several deaths in the book, but I’m not too interested in those, although they are of course relevant and important. What did grab me is the idea that ghosts could be said to exist between two worlds, and this equally applies to Elisabeth and Paul, who, it must be remembered[!], live a life between fantasy and reality; they are of this world, and simultaneously not of it.---I didn’t know how to fit this into my review without ruining the structure, so I am placing it here.I would like to point out that I do not understand the term ‘shocking’ as applied to this book; honestly, there is nothing shocking in it; in fact, the action is rather banal, for the most part. Furthermore, the claim that there is the suggestion of incest or homosexuality is, for me, a mighty stretch. I sometimes wonder if some people actually read what is before their eyes, or whether they simply allow their imaginations to run wild, because things are more fun that way. Yes, Elisabeth is once almost brought to tears by the ‘grace and beauty’ of Paul’s body, and yes they share a bath at one point, but thats it, theres nothing more salacious than that. In terms of homosexuality, Paul does have something of a crush on a boy called Dargelos, but Cocteau himself describes this as ‘chaste.’

  • Cody
    2019-03-09 05:05

    Trump Reviews The ClassicsHow about this Jean Cocteau, am I right? What a talent. Fantastic with the movies, the books...the drawing and coloring. Incredible. What an American! I said to Jean the other day at Mar Lago, I said, "Jean, you're a real mensch, even if you have a broad's name!" We both got a kick out of that, me saying the Jew word. Can you imagine? Anyone seen my numbers with the Jews? Amazing. 99.73% of the Jewish voting people chose Trump. The Jews love me. You all know Ivanka? What am I saying—of course you do, everybody does. Everybody loves my Ivanka. We both love this book, and I read it each night to her as a bedtime story. It's about the kind of moral family fiber that keeps America strong. Just a simple story about two relatives that love each other very very much. That's key, guys: loving your family and expressing it. And no one has ever had to wonder about my loving Ivanka. She's beautiful, stunning! A knock out! Legs for days. Legs like American highways—which, I might add, are in the best condition they have been in decades under my administration. Great ass, too. Like a peach. Believe me.

  • Nicole~
    2019-03-11 05:12

    3.5 starsA Bizarre Story-In 'Les Enfants Terribles', Cocteau gives the reader a melodramatic view of adolescence, void of innocence and filled with darkness; a peculiar relationship between brother and sister of excessive indulgence, petulance, childish pettiness and selfishness. Paul and Elisabeth contrive and control their fantasy games in the 'Room' that cocoons them from the world, a place where they feel most alive - a comfort zone. Their individual existences are simultaneously symbiotic and parasitic - a constant 'give and take' revolves around them, matched in strength by the innate need of one to feed off the other.Their games are initially mischievous, innocuous, anywhere from benign tricks and silly fights to squabbling and name-calling, making faces at strangers and petty thievery, one-upping the other with ever-increasing risk. The ridiculous behaviors don't cease into their adulthood but rather become more frenzied, more sadomasochistic, more psychotic.The story's strange interplays have the resemblance of drug-induced hallucinations, which might well have been intentional on the author's part. For example, one might recognize an allegorical suggestion at the beginning of the story, in the snow scene where Dargelos, whom Paul admires, injures him with a snowball blow to the chest, leaving him permanently and morbidly ill. His days are spent in bed, wasting away. He would suffer trance-like states and sleepwalk at night. The end is also tragic partly due to a 'poisonous substance', again, provided by Dargelos.Paul's voice was loud, aggressive. "Glorious stuff, poison! I was always dying to get hold of some when I was at school." ( It would have been more accurate to say that Dargelos was obsessed by poisons and that he, Paul, had copied Dargelos.)Paul and Elisabeth's unity and possessiveness goes undeniably beyond the boundaries of sibling love or rivalry. When one tries to leave the 'cocoon', the other must invariably follow. For instance, when Elisabeth marries her wealthy fiancé and moves into his mansion, she must make a room for Paul, who would fashion it to duplicate the old 'Room'. Later on, as Agatha confesses her love of Paul, Elisabeth vengefully retaliates like a jealous lover.There is an unmistakably apparent 'forbidden' sexual element to the characters' relationships, starting with the Paul -Dargelos connection in the opening scene. "He was looking for Dargelos, whom he loved. It was the worse for him because he was condemned to love without forewarning of love's nature. His sickness was unremitting and incurable-a state of desire, chaste, innocent of aim or name."With Paul and Elisabeth, an incestuous undertone is strongly present."...Elisabeth and Paul took possession of the bedroom, leaving the bathroom to Gérard. By nightfall, the situation had deteriorated; Elisabeth wanted a bath and so did Paul. They sulked, raged, turned on one another, flung doors open, slammed them again at random, and ended finally at opposite ends of the same boiling bath, with Paul in fits of laughter."Freud is so present in this novel. The book comes to a suspenseful conclusion, still leaving the reader a little perplexed about its purpose.Cocteau's strange tale may portray some very dark and self-serving human behaviors, some of which, for an adolescent, might be misdemeanors easily overlooked; the adult, however, might be sent to Purgatory, a more permanent tragic end.In an alternate view, 'Les Enfants Terribles' may possibly be the author's psychological comparison of destructive behaviors from childhood to adulthood - that an adult is the malignant version of its younger self; the behaviors don't really change over time, just that their outcomes become lethal.

  • MJ Nicholls
    2019-03-06 02:09

    First, Cocteau’s sumptuous, surreal little pearl of a novella, in peerless translation from Rosamond Lehmann. Next, Gilbert Adair’s affectionate rip-off The Holy Innocents (spot the pun). Next, Bernardo Bertalucci’s film The Dreamers, with a screenplay by Gilbert Adair. Next, Gilbert Adair turns his screenplay (or re-edits his original novel) into a novelisation of The Dreamers. Not a dud in the bunch. An Olympic relay of sultry, challenging art. What better?

  • Emma
    2019-03-04 00:11

    Cocteau's velvet words are so beautiful, reading 'les enfants terribles' felt like little kisses on my brain.  Gorgeous  sentence after gorgeous sentence took my breath away. The translation by Rosamond Lehmann is a work of art and cocteau's illustrations throughout the book a delight. The book is short at only 183 pages and i could have gobbled it up very quickly but....i took my time and (don't laugh) indulged in all things french and impressionist for the week (Debussy's syrinx even found its way to my music stand after many, many years). I had a lovely time reading 'les enfants terribles' but, dear readers, proceed with caution as this  is a morbid tale with a plot murkier than my poor neglected fish tank. Through siblings Paul and Elisabeth we explore isolation, incestuous love and suicide.  But with sentences such as the example below (uttered by the narrator in response to an injury suffered by Paul) , it's impossible for me to think of 'les enfants terribles' as anything other than a thing of beauty. "a child's reaction to this type of calamity is twofold and extreme.  Not knowing how deeply, powerfully, life drops anchor into its vast sources of recuperation, he is bound to envisage, at once, the very worst; yet at the same time, because of his inability to imagine death, the worst remains totally unreal to him". 

  • Paquita Maria Sanchez
    2019-02-28 08:03

    Reading this is sort of like floating up, up, up into the clouds of a beautiful, serene blue summer sky, then suddenly dropping dozens of stories and getting bashed into billions of bloody, mushy bits.

  • knig
    2019-02-23 06:01

    Bizarre Westermarck –defiant melodrama tuned in to the obsessive convolvulations ™ of a brother and sister who transverse a wide gamut of other relationships but ultimately end up each others best playdate.Orphaned through a stroke of magical surrealism, Elisabeth and Paul end up keeping house together as teens in 1920s Paris. Much like Pippi Longstocking lording it in Villa Vellikulla, Elisabeth and Paul, unencumbered by crass considerations such as money, schooling, or other boring quotidian worries, abandon themselves to an imaginary world of mind games, which, although never explicitly elucidated, seem to carry an overtone of a build up to a grande incestuous denouement. You know, first you start pressing a cold bowl of crayfish over your naked brother’s prone form, and take it from there. Of course, such games are even more delicious with an audience, and so two outsiders: Gerrard and Agatha are roped in to succor the Thespians with admiration and gratitude. A few soubriquets on the fringe of this quartet round out this Freudian entanglement: Paul, apart from coveting his sister, also happens to be bisexual, or perhaps completely homosexual: his fascination with a childhood bully, Dargelos, informs his qualia: and when Agatha appears, bearing an androgynous resemblance to Dargelos, Paul pretty much loses it. He wanders about, forlorn in love: but with whom? Elisabeth? Dargelos? Agatha?Love itself, as framed by the quartet, a love that may not possibly exist outside it?Elisabeth herself is needy: she needs all players focused on her, irrespective of gender. The thought of Paul ceding the pact with Agatha puts her in a frenzy Freud would have been proud of. Here, a rush of melodrama catapults this tragedy towards a predictable, yet no less satisfying end, as Shakesperean ploys of crossing and double crossing see the quartet mutate and take on a number of interrelationship combinations before the big bang finale. Necromania, incest, surrealism and sexual exploration: just what the French are best at, served with a cherry on top.

  • Lavinia
    2019-03-08 01:13

    A sort of surrealist reading. A love and hate experience of two orphan siblings (Paul, Elisabeth) which includes games (The Game, actually - their game) and plays that replace the real life. These games and especially the plays require partners and, mostly, an audience (Gerard, Agathe). And when the audience becomes too involved and the risk of intrusion in their inner word is too obvious, they are masterfully (and mischievously) removed.

  • Nate D
    2019-02-20 04:06

    Curiously-bonded siblings, freshly orphaned, retreat into a cloistered Game-life of their own making, which barely touches the outside world, but which may incorporate new players. Totally weird, poeticized use of language. Totally weird relationships. But it works.The central obsession-immolation dynamic (these siblings are like an implicitly incestuous Wuthering Heights -- the center cannot hold and will take everyone else with it) is essentially obvious from the very start, but this is still totally compelling. I guess the mystery is not that disaster impends but in watching how it will impend. Even so, as we get closer the ending starts to come into focus and the total gripping intensity of the first half wanes a little. Even the impressionistic, disjointed beauty of the opening passages fades a little into more mundane narrative sequences. But the language is so good when its good. From the opening blizzard:Here and there, some fragmentary image stood out in stereoscopic detail between one blindness and the next; a gaping mouth in a red face; a hand pointing -- at whom? in what direction? ... It is at him, none other, that the hand is pointing; he staggers; his pale lips open to frame a shout. He has discerned a figure, one of the god's acolytes, standing on some front door steps. It is he, this acolyte, who compasses his doom.(more quotes here)I also have to wonder if this was the inspiration for Bertalucci's The Dreamers. It seems highly likely. The story is different, but the central relationship contains many of the same elements of terminal fascination and escape into some kind of an unreal, removed existence.

  • James
    2019-03-14 03:48

    This is a fantastic, surreal and artistic book, incredibly erotically charged, which explores the other, darker side of love. It is a story about a brother and sister, Paul and Elisabeth – without a father and with an invalid mother – and the different romantic obsessions that they have. At first Paul is obsessed with another boy, Dargelos, who looks very feminine. Paul becomes very ill when Dargelos throws a snowball at him that has a rock inside it, and Elisabeth looks after him. She is fairly obsessed with Dargelos herself too.The brother and sister start this activity that they call “the game”, in which they try to hurt each other psychically. It’s baffling to other people to watch, and their friends and lovers are intermittently excluded and brought into this game. A girl comes into the story called Agatha, whom Paul falls in love with. Elisabeth is jealous of her, and tries to put an end to that.It’s a psychically and emotionally sadomasochistic novel. With s poetic and minimalist style Jean Cocteau writes a book that is an artistic achievement. Reading the book is a little like looking at an impressionist work of art or an opus by Debussy. It is evocative and poetic and beautiful and strange. Strange in the obsessions it explores with beauty or the idea of beauty at the center of it all. That it exposes taboos and explores them is intriguing in an artistic sense.This book is a great paean to youth. It’s a book that loves beautiful, young people, and it can reawaken that love of beauty in the reader of any age as well.

  • Vanessa
    2019-03-07 07:00

    2.5 stars. I don't know. I have mixed feelings about this book I guess. Having the knowledge that the book was the basis for another book that was adapted into the movie The Dreamers (which I did enjoy) meant that I viewed the characters very much like the actors in these roles, and sometimes I found my unnecessary expectations affecting the way I perceived the characters and how the plot would develop.For the most part, there isn't much of a plot to this book. Two siblings, Elisabeth and Paul, are constantly at each other's necks but are at the same time inseperable, playing the Game that very often takes other people's feelings into account. I found that the Game wasn't as big a theme as I thought it would be, with more emphasis on the Room that was their safe haven and bewitching to outsiders.The siblings, particularly Elisabeth, are for the most part terrible human beings, and there are often strong allusions to incest which doesn't bother me but might bother other people. Overall I wasn't super impressed by this book, but it was a quick (if not so light) read, and I enjoyed the illustrations by Jean Cocteau dotted throughout.

  • Kyle
    2019-02-23 05:44

    Actual rating: 2.5Not impressed.The story of a severely tempestuous and co-dependent brother and sister, Elisabeth & Paul, orphaned following their mother’s death, slowly devolves into chaotic isolation, one in which drags down with them two others, Gerard & Agatha. As the four swirl around each other in the atmosphere of The Room— a space wherein they dwell; more-or-less, an unhinged realm where they enact The Game: a dysfunctional and totally mad, well, Game. I felt nothing for any of the characters, for they all were pitiful and varying levels of insane in their own ways... but Elisabeth, I must say, is the antichrist. She’s utterly psychopathic!While I found the writing at times lyrical and sumptuous, it was too often prosaic and overworked for me. I felt detached most of the readthrough. I did have an appreciation for the fever dream quality of the story as a whole, though. It was, in certain moments, like a beautifully deranged hallucination, but one in which left me cold and blank.

  • Marc
    2019-02-22 07:14

    I finished this short novel/novella (second read-through) earlier tonight. I have much I could say about it, but I feel that if I go into an in-depth analysis of the relationships between the various characters -- Elizabeth (or Lise, the passive-aggressive sister), Paul (her "weak" brother, with whom she shares a "strong physical resemblance"), Gerard (their friend, who is enamored with Paul), Dargelos (with whom Paul is enamored, and who, though off-screen most of the time, is key to the way in which events will unfold), Agatha (an orphan employed as a mannequin when we first meet her, and a tragic figure; she greatly resembles -- physically, that is -- Dargelos, not insignificantly), Michael (the rich Jewish American who makes a brief, but significant, appearance), etc. -- I will ruin this short but amazingly complex work for anyone who wishes to discover it on his/her own. Suffice it to say that this book will appeal to those who appreciate Greek tragedy tuned to a decidedly modern key (I couldn't help thinking of Alain Robbe-Grillet's The Erasers -- here, as in that work, things already seem to be preordained from early on in the novel, and references to Greek mythological figures occasionally surface as little hints of what's to come). Its central characters are self-absorbed, spoiled, "social misfits"; they are thieves, dreamers whose dreams are unsavory, and love will eventually tear them apart (please allow me the Ian Curtis reference). Any "good" synopsis of the novella would probably talk about the "Room" in which the three -- later four -- perform their childish "plays," about the "Game," about the near-incestuous relationship strongly hinted at between brother/sister (Paul and Elisabeth), about the pranks the children play on others, the rituals and the objects they steal/collect, about the death of various family members and the significance of said deaths, and perhaps even about what happens at the end. But I won't go there. Best to discover these things for oneself. I might also briefly mention, for those interested in POV, that this novella is written in a close third-person style that allows the narrator to freely weave in and out of the minds of all of the characters, not just the main characters, and also to interject, from time to time, a comment or three of his own (i.e. to remind us that we're watching a bona fide tragedy unfold before our eyes!). Finally, the illustrations, by Cocteau himself, are quite wonderful, and add to the ambience of the narrative.

  • Tony
    2019-03-09 03:01

    LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES. (1929; Eng. Trans. 1955). Jean Cocteau. **.This is the only work I have read by Cocteau, and might very well be my last. It is a short novel about the absurd lives of two children; a brother Paul, and his sister, Elisabeth. They live with their sick mother, who very early on dies and they are left alone. The two develop a weird relationship with each other that involves playing a ‘game’, never clearly defined, that mostly occurs within their ‘room’, that place in the house where they both live. It starts out with Paul becoming a semi-invalid after being hit in the chest by a snowball containing a stone. That puts him at the mercy of his sister for his care, but it allows them to play their game in freedom. Other children enter and exit the story, but don’t seem to affect its outcome; they are temporary nuisances only. If there was a point to this tale, I missed it. I only finished it because it was just over 100 pages. Had it been any longer, it would have been set aside. If this work is typical of Cocteau’s work, I’ve had enough.

  • Feliks
    2019-03-07 23:50

    It's a kind of book which is impossible to produce in the modern age; therefore the kind you have to search back decades to discover; the kind you hunt back through many tomes of French and British 'belles-lettres' expressly to find relief from today's incessant babble. This is one of those books like 'The Little Prince' or 'The Velveteen Rabbit' which rewards that craving; which provides respite from all our daily jargon, acronyms, and buzz. There's nothing like refreshing power of plain, direct, simple writing from these earlier times. For instance, a 'neighborhood doctor who looks in'--is present in this story, as opposed to 'visiting an ER at a medical center'. Another: students 'carrying their books with a tie' rather than a 'backpack'. There are 'maids' and 'housekeepers'. Nurses and headmasters. Dressing gowns. 'Sipping cocoa with one's feat up on the fender'. Plaster busts of Buonaparte, and Nike-of-Samothrace on a mantelpiece. Rococco-faced clocks with hands. Balconies and verandas and fireplaces. Lanterns. Cloaks. Cabs. Pince-nez glasses. Berets. Scarves. Gloves. Boots. Frocks and smocks. All as entrancing as it should be. Lyrically and unerringly described from someone who was there, who was part of it.This is the Paris of this little novel and its welcoming enough; and then within this ornate setting, rests a strange little cameo--the lush Greek tragedy of a brother and sister and their addiction to one another. Twins--always rather disturbing, but here also something very much to envy. The duo is like an Artemis and an Apollo; of like mind and habit in every way; and it is a heady recipe every page of the way, until it at last ends in shock and gruesomeness. Sumptuous reading; echoes of Poe or Lautremont.They brats are wealthy, but orphaned at a young age; they inhabit a snug little house in Montmarte; and from there the incestuous--but chaste--tension begins to build. Cocteau excels in describing their fascinating and ominous relationship. Its one of the best such exercises I've seen. It's partly a romance, partly perversion, partly an ode, partly an elegy to all childhoods. Macabre touches and tone--as a Shirley Jackson would display--but with an added dimension and dreaminess which one can only get from Paris of that time. The excellence stems from Cocteau's insight to youngish minds; adolescent minds-- although these children do not stand still--the end of the novel finds them of marrying age. I had only one quibble and that is--during Cocteau's exploration in which seemingly the most innermost thoughts of the young pair of scamps is revealed to the reader--he alludes to one of their private accords, always giving it a label; 'The Game' but never explaining what this 'game' is. Damned, damned, annoying. A glaring omission that nearly spoils the entire read. If you're going to rove among two children's hearts (and probe the waxing and the waxing of "puppy-love") as if with the eye of God, then please don't leave any stone unturned.Anyway. The novel has the magic and potency of both Jean Cocteau's two most famous movies, which is why I reached back so far to find it (they are the pioneering fantasies, 'La Belle et la Bette' and 'Orphee', which if you've never seen either, you really should). His is a supremely talented and authoritative voice in prose or moving image; perhaps the most talented of any when it comes to the task of imbuing wonder back into our daily lives.Extra bonus; his facility with imagery is not in the least borne out by the charming and exemplary hand-drawn line-illustrations sprinkled through this text. A real treat.

  • Kirsty
    2019-03-08 03:57

    I purchased Jean Cocteau's Les Enfants Terribles for two reasons; firstly, it looked fantastic, and secondly, I thought that it would be an interesting inclusion for my Reading the World Project. The novel in its Vintage edition has been faultlessly and lovingly translated by Rosamond Lehmann, a Virago author whom I very much enjoy in her own right.Cocteau the man was a fascinating figure by all accounts, and is recognised as important in many fields; he was a poet, a novelist, an artist, a musician, a choreographer, an actor, and a filmmaker. The book's blurb hails him 'one of the most talented Frenchmen of the twentieth century and a leading figure in the Surrealist movement'. His foray into novel writing, Les Enfants Terribles, was first published in France in 1928, and in this translation in 1955.Siblings Paul and Elisabeth share a 'private world... from which parents are tacitly excluded'. Although both in their middling teenage years, they play what they term 'The Game', 'their own bizarre version of life': 'the word "Game" was by no means accurate, but it was the term which Paul had selected to denote that state of semi-consciousness in which children float immersed'. The rules are rather complex, and the overwhelming message of The Game is that one of the pairing must die. Their home life is not a happy one; their mother has been recently struck by paralysis, and Elisabeth has to care for her: 'She had been bewitched, spoiled, and finally deserted by her husband. For three years he had gone on treating his family to occasional brief visits, during the course of which, - having meanwhile developed cirrhosis of the liver - he would brandish revolvers, threaten suicide, and order them to nurse the master of the house; for the mistress with whom he lived refused this office and kicked him out whenever his attacks occurred. His custom was to go back to her as soon as he felt better. He turned up one day at home, raged, stamped, took to his bed, found himself unable to get up again, and died; thereby bestowing his end upon the wife he had repudiated'.Les Enfants Terribles opens with Paul being knocked unconscious by a snowball, which appears to have been thrown by a boy whom he is infatuated with. He is badly hurt, and his friend Gerard sees him home. Cocteau has tenderly described this journey: 'Paul heard: but he was sunk in such leaden lassitude that he could not move his tongue. He slid a hand out of his rugs and wrappings and put it over Gerard's'. Their friendship is loving and multilayered.From the outset, I found the novel - or novella, I suppose, as it runs to just 135 pages - beguiling and intriguing. There is such a sense of place throughout, and Paris is beautifully evoked. Cocteau's writing is intelligent, and there is a marvellously fluid feel to its English translation. Elisabeth and Paul are endlessly fascinating. Their sheer unpredictably renders both incredibly realistic.I am a huge fan of French literature, and this contains almost all of the most prevalent elements which I enjoy within translated French tomes - child characters, interesting and original plot twists, the weird, and the quirky. There is a tenseness and violence to it which builds as the novel progresses. Les Enfants Terribles also includes a series of illustrations by Cocteau himself; these are vivid and striking. Les Enfants Terribles is a transportative work. In accordance with the blurb, I believed that the Game itself would be more a focus than it turned out to be. However, the sheer strength and breadth of the coping strategies which the children adopt in response to the traumatic experiences which they undergo is strong enough to make the Game itself almost fade into the background. Les Enfants Terribles is fantastic, both gritty and dark; it is a strange and clever book which promises to stick with the reader for weeks after it has been read.

  • Inderjit Sanghera
    2019-02-24 06:44

    ‘Les Enfants Terribles’ is Cocteau’s dreamlike account between two siblings, Paul and Elisabeth, and their fractious relationship. The novel and prose are imbued with a dreamlike and surreal quality and whilst some might point to the incestuous undertones between Paul and Elisabeth, but I am not sure if the story is about “sex” but more about the extremes of adolescent emotions. None of the characters, whether it be Paul and Elisabeth or the periphery characters who populate their lives are not rally “characters” per se, in the sense that they have depth or much background history. Instead they merely exist as dummies for Cocteau to explore the extremes of emotions in various kinds of relationships: for example you have the cruel, arrogant, capricious and seductive protagonists (Paul and Elisabeth) the shy, timid and sensitive couple who fall in love with them (Gerard and Agatha) and a wide periphery of clichés dressed as characters (the rich uncle, the wise old servant etc.). All of this sounds rather banal, yet Cocteau is able to remedy this by his surreal writing style; “Gleaming with the soft effulgence of a luminous dial, the snow’s incandescence, self-engendered, reached inward to probe the very soul of luxury and draw it forth through stone till it was visible, it was that fabric magically upholstering the Cite, shrinking it and transforming it into a phantom drawing room.” You feel like you have walked in the middle of a dream, a dream full of opalescent moonbeams and sultry shadows and a ghoulish couple who play a kind of indefinable “game” which involves them constantly daring each other to undertake more and more extreme tasks in order to gratify each other. Most of the “action” if that is what you want to call it, takes place in their house, whose atmosphere reflects the dream-like tone of the prose; “Here too the snow had been about its magic work. The room hung in mid-air, miraculously suspended, changed, unfamiliar to the child who stood there, stock still, staring, behind one of the armchairs. The lamplight brightness of the opposite pavement had printed on the ceiling several windows made of squares of shadow and half-shadow curtained with arabesques of light; upon this groundwork the silhouetted forms of passers-by circled diminished as in a moving fresco.” Indeed the characters within the story are like passers-by encircling a carousel which surrounds the emotional lives of Elisabeth and Paul; one is reminded of that other great French ‘coming of age’ novel, ‘Les Grandes Meaulnes’ or indeed of Cocteau’s movies, such as ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Orphee’, whose smoke atmosphere and fairy tale-esque storyline was obvious influenced by Cocteau’s inimitable writing style.

  • Reuben
    2019-02-20 02:46

    This book has reaffirmed my faith in the sl(e)ight. The language in this translation, though I'm sure through Cocteau's talent also, is cold, brooding, but understated. Everything is plainly written but murkily obscured. The plot is simple to follow, but the motivations, the emotions, less so. At the end I am left with no answers, but completely satisfied. This is because Les Enfants Terribles is not concerned with explanations, it makes no claim to be, it is concerned with characters, with Games, with fates. And in that way it makes perfect sense. It creates a world, plays by the rules of this world, then fractures by them too. All in less than 150 pages. Most novellas leave me wanting something more, not the case here.(Would've like some closure on Gerard though).

  • Andrey
    2019-02-23 03:46

    The book starts out as an innocent coming-of-age story but transforms itself into a macabre phantasmagoric thriller towards the end.Breathtakingly beautiful Cocteau's style illuminates the themes of teenage friendship and love, jealousy and cruelty, his imagination creating grotesque and twisted but eminently fascinating and haunting images.

  • Dolly Delightly
    2019-03-20 01:12

    Jean Cocteau’s Les Enfants Terribles is a book about “the mysteries of childhood” and one which could not have been written by a more appropriate contender as the phrase, in the singular, has frequently been used to describe Cocteau himself. Born on 5th July 1889 in Maisons-Laffitte, Yvelines, a small village a few miles outside Paris, into a wealthy and politically influential family, Cocteau left home at the age of 15. His father, a lawyer and an amateur painter, shot himself in his bed when Cocteau was nine – a tragedy which is thought to have kindled Cocteau’s perfervid fascination with death. Speaking about it at the end of his own life, Cocteau said that his father had killed himself “for reasons that are no longer relevant” even though they continued to plague him. At the age of 19, Cocteau published his first collection of poems, Aladdin’s Lamp. Three years later, another anthology, The Frivolous Prince, followed. Cocteau quickly became a mastodon of the corpuscular literary scene of 1920s Paris, mingling with the likes of Marcel Proust, Andre Gide, Maurice Barrès and Jean Hugo. He wrote more than 50 books in his lifetime, but Les Enfants Terribles remains at the pinnacle of his oeuvre. Penned in just 17 days, the book captures the “legend of eternal youth” and its inevitable tragedies which, as Cocteau says, “bare no relation to one’s preconceived ideas,” because “one is always bewildered by their simplicity”.The story of Les Enfants Terribles – inspired by a real life tale of a “family closed from societal life” – revolves around a brother and sister who inhabit a world of their own, a fantasy world with its own rules, created to alleviate the monotonous languor of everyday realities. Elisabeth and Paul’s psychological pulsations, partly responsible, for their alienation from the world at large are established early. A mother crippled by some paralytic illness, a woman who “only four months ago had been young and vigorous” but now at the mere age of 35 “longed for death,” a woman who “had been bewitched, spoiled and finally deserted by her husband.” Cocteau illustrates the situation further: “For three years he [the father] had gone on treating his family to occasional brief visits, during the course of which – having meanwhile developed cirrhosis of the liver – he would brandish revolvers, threaten suicide, and order them to nurse the master of the house; for the mistress with whom he lived refused this office and kicked him out whenever his attacks occurred. His custom was to go back to her as soon as he felt better. He turned up one day at home, raged, stamped, took to his bed, found himself unable to get up again, and died; thereby bestowing his end upon the wife he had repudiated. An impulse of rebellion now turned this woman into a mother who neglected her children, took to night clubs, got herself up like a tart, sacked her maid once a week, begged, borrowed indiscriminately,” and finally died.Right from the outset Les Enfants Terribles emanates an “atmosphere of perpetually impending storm” when Paul gets struck by a “marble-fisted blow” of a snowball, hurled in play by Dargelos, the subject of Paul’s infatuation, which leaves him incapacitated and revelling in the “sweet delights of sickness and perpetual holiday” under his sister’s care. Elisabeth, the “ministering angel” hastily reveals herself to be an enclave of jealousy, malevolence and lust looming over the household like a “Byzantine Empress”. One very quickly realises that the relationship between the siblings is not as straightforward or orthodox as social mores prescribe, and tentatively reels on the verge of incest, their incongruous love never consummated but paramount. Elisabeth is a domineering soubrette, a hurricane to Paul’s harmony, manipulating and conniving in her efforts to keep him all to herself and to comminute anyone who gets in her way. Paul’s quixotic nature paints him as a biddable naïf determinedly under his sister’s spell. The two together, live in “The Room” perpetually playing “The Game” according to unwritten, recherché rules known only to them. The siblings, the “twin seraphs”, curiously united by a familial intimacy verging on romantic love, do not know the meaning of “embarrassment in the presence of each other” and their shared space is “a masterpiece of their own being” in which they live, dress, wash together as if “twin halves of a single body.” Left largely to their own devices, after the death of their mother whom they had treated “with scant consideration, but nevertheless they loved” Elisabeth and Paul entice outside spectators into “The Game”. Gerard and Agathe get whirl-winded into the snare and the love-hate sibling relationship kept under a strict “seal of secrecy”. “The Room”, their room, becomes like a “gypsy camp” and the brother and sister who once “adored” and “devoured each other” begin to drift apart, except Elisabeth refuses to let go until the two of them can meet elsewhere “where flesh dissolves, where soul dissolves, where incest lurks no more.”Cocteau’s ability to capture the reader’s attention and direct it to the idiosyncrasies and psychological antecedents behind the events in Les Enfants Terribles underlines the book’s intrigue and the writer’s brilliance. But, in his early years, as the epitome of moderne amid 1920s bohemian circles, Cocteau experienced an unexpected but rapid fall from grace and was dismissed as a social chameleon, a crude dilettante and an uncommitted aesthete. He was deemed frivolous for diversifying into poesy, painting and cinema . Andre Breton regarded him with particular animosity and along with his Surrealist companions attempted to sabotage Cocteau’s artistic endeavours. Cocteau himself did some collateral damage too by spreading himself too thinly. It wasn’t merely his poor health, aggravated by decades of opium abuse and subsequent detoxification, it was also the fact that he continuously put himself on the line, at once consumed by the world and consuming others to gain greater acclaim and clout as an artist. Thus, he lived in an eternal state of identity crisis and by his own admission continued to experience anguish and turmoil, from as early as his father’s suicide up to the tragic and premature deaths of his closest male paramours.Cocteau’s literary undertakings were inexorably influence by his mercurial disposition and unremitting fatalism. They also exhibited his profound leanings toward death, morbidity and violence, engendering many paternal phantoms and references to suicide. This is particularly true of Les Enfants Terribles which also reflects his idealism and captivation with the cult of youth, his need of fantasy at once unnerving and enthralling like the escapist machinations of Paul and Elisabeth. The element of melodrama in Les Enfants Terribles is handled with considerable acuity, and the alluring horror which pervades the ingenuous self-destruction of the siblings is led gloriously to a ripe climax. The book entails copious cross references form William Shakespeare to Lord Byron to Sigmund Freud, all of which coalesce masterfully to make a very poignant point, namely that love is wayward, cruel, uncompromising and in the extreme: fatal.

  • RB
    2019-03-23 07:00

    This is a 3.5, rounded down.So, the book. In "Les Enfants Terribles", Jean Cocteau spends the first thirty-or-so pages casting a spell over the reader, with lush, beautiful descriptions of the setting while setting up most of the lead players. There's not much plot, but a whole lot of atmosphere. I've read some comments where readers complain that these characters don't show much care for characters in their lives who die: welcome to opium addiction. The cold, distant, lacking-in-emotions feeling runs through much of the novel, as does the more euphoric, feverish delights of such an experience. Unfortunately, despite it's magical writing, filled with addictive descriptions, the story never takes off. So, with that in mind, the reader must be able to engage with the characters, their bizarre relationships (that I found fascinating), and the games they play--if, however, the reader finds the characters and their development lacking within the first third, there's little chance there's anything to enjoy in what ensues. Nevertheless, I found most of this intoxicating and, spiked with childish illustrations by Cocteau, a quick read and a dark plummet into a world as frightening as it is enchanting, but perhaps not as enthralling a read as I found it ten-years-ago.

  • Akemi G
    2019-03-12 06:47

    Young adult novella, which is not marketed as YA because 1) it was written before such genre was established 2) because adults don't want kids to read books like this 3) although the central figures are 14 and 16 at the beginning of the story, this doesn't necessarily mean it's YA; it more than tolerates adults' reading. In fact, I wonder how many adults can tolerate this. It seems to me the French have a niche for this kind of books; think of Bonjour tristesse, The Ripening Seed, etc. P.S. I am bumping up the rating. The story is not "well-written" in the usual sense; it unfolds rather abruptly (for instance, Michael doesn't even have a line. He is there just to change the setting; however, this relocation is essential for the plot), then there are moments that might feel dull. The brilliance of this novella, however, is the brutal realization that children live in another world of their own, and the way this is expressed in equally brutal, beautiful language. So the lack of smoothness is not the point. Some people might have problems calling teenagers "children." I thought about this, and I don't know other words that would work better. "Les Enfants Terribles" (terrible children) is the original and appropriate title, and when they could no longer hold onto their world of childhood, due to unforgiving process of maturity, the story had to explode.Read in Japanese translation. I wish I could read the original French.

  • Emm
    2019-03-08 03:46

    Before reading this book, I really just considered Cocteau to be a french novelty who made some enchanting films. What an understatement! Coctueau's exploration of myth is so sophisticated and really provocative. Most notably I enjoyed his treatment of Plato's androgyne myth with the titular couple--the incestuous brother and sister. He also manages to capture that other world of adolescence, which he places between the realms of dreams and the imaginary, where the boundaries of death and life are blurred and unrecognizable. There is so much to say about this book: it's a complicated look on love, adolescence, myth and ritual. A really great and fulfilling read--I can't wait to delve deeper into the world of Cocteau in every medium!

  • Zei
    2019-03-01 07:12

    "C'est la première fois qu'un roman envoie des enfants en enfer". Une phrase qui m'a subjuguée et menée à me saisir de ce livre de l'étagère de la bibliothèque et de le lire, tantôt d'une traite sans le lâcher pendant des heures, tantôt en boitant, à deux pages par heure.Cocteau est un auteur à part, en lisant son oeuvre on a la ferme impression de regarder une toile se mouvoir et évoluer...telle une peinture de Dali, tiens!Je le conseille vivement à tous ceux qui tombent dessus par le plus beau des hasards.

  • Belle
    2019-03-18 06:47

    I literally cannot stand this type of book. The entire novel felt utterly pointless and vapid. The story revolves around a group of white, privileged, Parisian teenagers engaging in various mischiefs by torturing themselves and other people for fun. I could care less for the silly little "game" that they invented. However, I thought the first chapter was good and thrilling and It reminded me of the opening scene of Au Revoir Les Enfants by Louis Malle, but everything went downhill from there. The story got really messy and the characters became estranged and unreal. The two main characters appeared to be extremely dependent on each other and their relationship insinuated an incest of some sort, but every character in the book always seemed very emotionally distant and lack depth. The only thing I liked about this book is the translation. It's beautiful and It's what made me stuck with the book until the end.

  • Roxana Dreptu
    2019-03-10 01:11

    I'm going to go ahead and make the lame pun that this book was terrible (in the way that awesome can mean one thing or another, depending on the amount of English you know and on the century you were born in). I was expecting a little more of Jeux d'Enfants and fewer fever dreams. Everybody seems to be an orphan, and trying to count the love triangles is a bit like solving illusionist puzzles. The characters and story are surreal.