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This passionate and monumental biography reassesses the life and legacy of one of the most significant cultural figures of the twentieth century

Unevenly respected, easily hated, almost always suspected of being inferior to his reputation, Jean Cocteau has often been thought of as a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. In this landmark biography, Claude Arnaud thoroughly contests this characterization, as he celebrates Cocteau’s “fragile genius—a combination almost unlivable in art” but in his case so fertile.

Arnaud narrates the life of this legendary French novelist, poet, playwright, director, filmmaker, and designer who, as a young man, pretended to be a sort of a god, but who died as a humble and exhausted craftsman. His moving and compassionate account examines the nature of Cocteau’s chameleon-like genius, his romantic attachments, his controversial politics, and his intimate involvement with many of the century’s leading artistic lights, including Picasso, Proust, Hemingway, Stravinsky, and Tennessee Williams. Already published to great critical acclaim in France, Arnaud’s penetrating and deeply researched work reveals a uniquely gifted artist while offering a magnificent cultural history of the twentieth century.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300170573
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 09/27/2016
Pages: 1024
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.50(h) x 2.60(d)

About the Author

Claude Arnaud is a writer and recipient of the 2006 Prix Femina Essai. He lives in Paris, France. Lauren Elkin is a lecturer in English and comparative literature at the American University of Paris. Charlotte Mandell is an award-winning translator of more than thirty books.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 The Child Prodigy 13

2 Ariel 42

3 The Living God 78

4 The Molting 114

5 The War as Opera 141

6 The Ordeal of Bohemia 164

7 The Parade of Peace 183

8 With Radiguet 222

9 All Against Dada 247

10 The Miraculous Years 274

11 Genealogy of a Tragedy 317

12 The Angel's Dream 355

13 La Croix et la Bannière 405

14 "Raymond Has Returned" 433

15 The Sound of the Fall 471

16 The Tragic Years 506

17 The Decadent One 543

18 The Resurrection 585

19 The Occupied 614

20 In the Heart of the Furnace 650

21 The Universal Suspect 687

22 The Unfashionable 730

23 Who Is the Greatest Genius of the Century? 772

24 The Survivor 819

Notes 867

Additional Resources 984

Acknowledgments 991

Index of Names Cited 995

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