Les Enfants Terribles by Jean Cocteau Translated by Rosamond Lehmann

I confess.  I didn’t get it. If you want some kind of reasonable analysis of Jean Cocteau’s classic 1929 novel Les Enfants Terribles you’ll have to look elsewhere.  I’m sure you’ll be able to find lots of intelligent commentary out there, but you’ll find none here.

I read the whole thing, which I thought would be a quicker read at just over 130 pages. But it took days. Days of wondering lost through the streets of Paris with little idea what was going on. I pretty sure it was snowing.

There are four main characters in Les Enfants Terribles.  The novel centers on Paul and Elizabeth who are siblings, close siblings. Too close.  From their early teenage years when the novel begins they play this game, a very complicated game that I couldn’t follow or make sense of.  They lure this woman Agathe and a young man Gerard into their game with deadly consequences.  At one point Gerard wants to marry Elizabeth and Agathe falls in love with Paul.  Elizabeth will have none of this so she manipulates everyone to convince Gerard to marry Agathe which means she’ll continue to have her brother to herself.  This may have been part of the game.  I’m not really sure.

Because of the siblings and the game Les Enfants Terribles reminded me a little of the movie House of Yes which is a huge, crazy mess, but funny and easy to follow.  And it stars a young Parker Posie, so what’s not to like.

So, I’m afraid when it comes to Mr. Cocteau, I can be of no help. You’re own your own.

Good luck.image

I did like the drawings he did for the book.  They’re very basic line drawings, not much to look at, but the way he reduced the characters and scene down to a few simple strokes inspires me.  I could do that, with some practice. To illustrate this post/book I copied part of one.  Mr. Cocteau’s hands are better than mine.  Everyone’s are. Hands are hard to draw.

For the record, I am collecting Vintage Classic paperbacks so I’ll be keeping Les Enfants Terribles on my to be re-read shelves.  Someday, I’ll give it another go.  How knows.  It may make sense to me when I’m 60.

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5 Comments

  1. samhouston23 says:

    That’s an inspirational review, James. I have had similar experiences way more than once and simply chose to remain silent about the books in question. This approach is much more effective. Kudos.

  2. alison41 says:

    What may have been material for a controversial title and theme in 1929 may appear irrelevant? boring ? obscure? opaque? to our world-weary jaded eyes in 2016. Just a tho9ught. Think I’ll give this one a miss! Thanks for the review.

  3. Whew, I hated The House of Yes, and since that movie I haven’t trusted Parker Posey! Lol

  4. BookerTalk says:

    I’m not surprised you couldn’t make sense of it. Cocteau wrote it during a period of withdrawal from opium. I doubt even he understood it.

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