Jean Cocteau

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Jean Cocteau
Jean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau
BirthplaceMaisons-Laffitte, France
Novelist, poet, artist, filmmaker

Cocteau, Jean

(zhäN kôktō`), 1889–1963, French writer, visual artist, and filmmaker. He experimented audaciously in almost every artistic medium, becoming a leader of the French avant-garde in the 1920s. His first great success was the novel Les Enfants Terribles (1929), which he made into a film in 1950. Surrealistic fantasy suffuses his films and many of his novels and plays. Among his best dramatic works are Orphée (1926) and La Machine infernale (1934, tr. 1936), in which the Orpheus and Oedipus myths are surrealistically adapted to modern circumstances. His films include The Blood of a Poet (1933), Beauty and the Beast (1946), and Orphée (1949). Among other works are ballets, sketches, monologues, whimsical drawings, and the text (written with Stravinsky) for the opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex (1927).


See his autobiography; comp. from his writings by R. Phelps (tr. 1970); biographies by F. Brown (1968), E. Sprigge and J.-J. Kihm (1968), and F. Steegmuller (1970); M. Crosland, ed., Cocteau's World (tr. 1972).

Cocteau, Jean


Born July 5, 1889, at Maisons Laffitte, Seine et Oise; died Oct. 11, 1963, at Milly-la-Forét, Seine et Oise. French writer and screenwriter. Member of the Académie Fran-çaise (1955).

Cocteau began as a symbolist poet. His output during World War I (1914–18) and the postwar period displayed cubist-futurist and dadaist traits (the collection Poems, 1920). Cocteau’s later poetry developed from the “neoclassicism” of the narrative poem Plain Chant (1923) to the surrealism of the collection Opera (1927). His best-known novels include Thomas the Impostor (1923; Russian translation, 1925) and Les Enfants terribles (1929). Cocteau adapted classical and Shakespearean tragedies in an attempt to update them. His other plays include the psychological monodrama The Human Voice (1930; Russian translation, 1971) and Intimate Relations (1938). In the 1930’s, Cocteau became a screenwriter and director (the films Orphée, 1950; Blood of a Poet; and Le Testament d’Orphée, 1960).


Oeuvres complétes, vols. 1–11. Lausanne, 1947–51.
Lannes, R. Jean Cocteau; une étude. Poems and bibliography selected by H. Parisot and P. Seghers. New revised edition. [Paris, 1964.]
Cahiers [1–2. Paris, 1969–71].
In Russian translation:
“Proza i stikhi.” Sovremennyi Zapad, 1923, book 4. (See A. Efros, “Tri silueta [Apolliner, Sandrar, Kokto]”.)
“Trudnye roditeli.” In the collection P’esy sovremennoi Frantsii. Moscow, 1960.


Istoriia frantsuzskoi literatury, vol. 4. Moscow, 1963.
Kihm, J.-J. Cocteau. Paris, 1960.
Brosse, J. Cocteau. [Paris, 1970.] (Bibliography.)
Steegmuller, F. Cocteau. [London, 1970.] (Bibliography.)
Chanel, P. Album Cocteau. [Paris, 1970.]