Soixante dessins pour 'Les enfants terribles'

Year: 1935

Author: Jean Cocteau (1889 - 1963)

Artist: Jean Cocteau (1889 - 1963)

Publisher: Éditions Grasset

Soixante dessins pour 'Les enfants terribles', title page, drawn by Jean Cocteau

Jean Cocteau wrote his novel Les enfants terribles (1929) in a seventeen-day stupor during his stay at the Saint-Cloud clinic. While there, he underwent detoxification treatment for opium after the death of his friend Raymond Radiguet. Several years after the publication of this novel, Cocteau produced an album in which he drew sixty-odd scenes from the story. It was published in 1935 under the title Soixante dessins pour 'Les enfants terribles'. The creation of these drawings was as fast and as feverish as that of the unreal story about the obsessive love between a brother and a sister.

Graphic poetry

In the foreword to this edition, Cocteau informs us that the drawings were intended for readers who have done more than just read Les enfants terribles. The readers must also be 'struck' by it, just like protagonist Paul was struck by the snowball thrown by his classmate Dargelos. For as Cocteau pronounces in that very foreword: 'Nothing is more disturbing than the end of a book, the word end that exiles the reader, the cruel abandonment of the characters.' Cocteau considered his novels, plays, films and his drawings poetry, because that is in essence what crosses all limitations. For this reason he described his drawings as 'graphic poetry'.

Vain mannequins

The sixty drawings (of characters and familiar scenes) on Japanese paper were originally drawn in ink and quickly sketched in Cocteau's characteristic profiled perspective as if they were vain mannequins. Besides the reproductions in the book, this deluxe copy on Japanese paper also contains a unique, original pen drawing by Cocteau. This is a sketch illustrating an important passage from the novel in which Elisabeth, as the dominant sister, tries to enhance the weakened Paul's strength of will by offering him a lobster.

Bibliographical description

Description: Soixante dessins pour 'Les enfants terribles' / Jean Cocteau. - Paris : Éditions Grasset, 1935. – 61 p.: ill. ; 34 cm

Printer: Imprimerie moderne à Montrouge (Seine)

Edition: 197 copies

This copy: Number 2 of 17 on Japon impérial

Note: With an original drawing by Jean Cocteau

Bibliography: Bénézit 3-744

Shelfmark: KW Koopm A 563


  • Robin Buss, Cocteau: Les enfants terribles. London, Grant & Cutler, 1986
  • Jean Cocteau et les arts plastiques. Paris, Les musées de la ville de Paris, 1984
  • Jean Cocteau, Les enfants terribles. Paris, Fayard, 1931
  • Jean Cocteau, Opium: Journal d'une désintoxication. Paris, Stock, 1930
  • Patrick Mauriès, Le style Cocteau. Paris, Editions Assouline, 1998