Complete corrected typescript of the novel les Enfants terribles.
It was during a rehab in Saint-Cloud, in early 1929, that Cocteau wrote his most famous work, Les Enfants terribles. He claimed to have written this novel in seventeen days. The novel, which depicts the life of a brother and sister with an almost incestuous relationship, confined to a room with an unreal atmosphere, was inspired by the life of his friend Jean
Bourgoint and his sister Jeanne; Cocteau grafted his memories of the student Dargelos at the Lycée Condorcet onto this story. The book, published by Bernard Grasset in 1929, was a huge success. In 1950, Jean-Pierre
Melville made a film of it with Nicole Stéphane and Édouard Dermit, based on an adaptation and dialogues by Cocteau.
This typescript, particularly precious because of the absence of the manuscript, is preceded by an autograph title page: "Les enfants terribles" decorated with the famous star of the poet. On the last page (154), Cocteau has written the word "FIN", and drawn three stars before writing the date: "St Cloud
March 1929". It contains more than 300 words or passages crossed out, corrected or added in black ink. Cocteau fills in the blanks left in the typing or corrects bad readings; but he also makes stylistic corrections, all of which go in the direction of simplifying and purifying the text.
On page 40, Cocteau has made an interesting addition of 5 lines, which introduces the theme of somnambulism: "Paul sometimes suffered from small attacks of somnambulism. These attacks, very short, fascinated Elisabeth and did not frighten her. They alone could force the maniac to get out of bed. As soon as Elisabeth saw a long leg appear and move in a certain way, she no longer breathed, attentive to the maneuvering of the living statue that skilfully prowled about, lay down again and resettled." On page 148, in the final scene of the suicide, Cocteau adds in the margin a description of Elisabeth at the fateful moment: "The curls thrown back by the torment denuded the fierce little forehead and made it vast, architectural above the liquid eyes."
The present typescript presents a quasi-final version of the novel, the autograph corrections having been integrated; but the variants show that new corrections have been made on proofs. It should be noted that Cocteau has modified the division of the novel, crossing out the mention "Second part" on page 96 ("L'héritage, les signatures"...), to inscribe it in his own hand at the head of page 88 as it stands in the book. He also added paragraph marks, as well as indications of blanks or spaces of several lines, represented in the book by asterisks. The typescript is also decorated with 8 small drawings (pages 15, 16, 19, 27, 30, 31, 33) representing mostly men's heads, well representative of the beings that fed the poet's reveries.
Provenance : Carole WEISWEILLER.