In our current moment of distrust and anger and suspicion, Cocteau’s reminder is a welcome tonic.

*New York Journal of Books"

Jean Cocteau

Jean Cocteau (1889–1963) was a French writer, designer, filmmaker and boxing manager. Cocteau had literary aspirations from an early age, publishing his first collection of poems, Aladdin’s Lamp, when he was nineteen. During World War I, he served as an ambulance driver with the Red Cross. Myth has it that upon hearing of the death of his close friend, the singer Edith Piaf, Cocteau choked so severely that he soon died of a heart attack at his chateau in France.

cover image of the book Letter to the Americans

Letter to the Americans

by Jean Cocteau

Translated by Alex Wermer-Colan

In 1949, Jean Cocteau spent twenty days in New York, and began composing on the plane ride home this essay filled with the vivid impressions of his trip. With his unmistakable prose and graceful wit, he compares and contrasts French and American culture: the different values they place on art, literature, liberty, psychology, and dreams. Cocteau sees the incredibly buoyant hopes in America’s promise, while at the same time warning of the many ills that the nation will have to confront—its hypocrisy, sexism, racism, and hegemonic aspirations—in order to realize this potential. Never before translated into English, Letter to the Americans remains as timely and urgent as when it was first published in France over seventy years ago.

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cover image of the book The Infernal Machine and Other Plays

The Infernal Machine and Other Plays

Among the great figures who pioneered the modern movement in world literature, none showed himself more versatile than France’s Jean Cocteau. Poet, novelist, critic, artist, actor, film-maker, Cocteau was also one of the greatest dramatists Europe has produced, with over a dozen plays which are frequently revived, not only in France, but in translation in many other countries. For this collection, fine translations of four full-length plays, one short play, and the “Speaker’s Text" for the Cocteau-Stravinsky opera Oedipus Rex have been selected. The longer plays (The Infernal Machine, Orpheus, Bacchus, Knights of the Round Table) are re-creations of classic myth and legend—poetic and highly original interpretations of certain timeless themes which have inspired great drama through the ages. The Eiffel Tower Wedding Party is, by contrast, merely a “curtain-raiser,” but remarkable as un jeu d’esprit, revealing the wit and psychological penetration for which Cocteau is famous.

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cover image of the book The Holy Terrors

The Holy Terrors

by Jean Cocteau

Translated by Rosamond Lehmann

Cocteau’s novel Les Enfants terribles, which was first published in 1929, 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 built 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.

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In our current moment of distrust and anger and suspicion, Cocteau’s reminder is a welcome tonic.

*New York Journal of Books"

Cocteau’s fans won’t regret making room for this short but sweet outing on their shelves.

Publishers Weekly

One of the master craftsmen.

Tennessee Williams

Cocteau has the freest mind, and the purest, in Europe…

Ezra Pound

To enclose the collected works of Cocteau one would need not a bookshelf, but a warehouse…

W. H. Auden
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