Round the World in 80

Jean Cocteau, Author, Simon Callow, Introduction by I. B. Tauris & Company $14.95 (266p) ISBN 978-1-86064-592-1
In 1936, Cocteau circled the globe, following the route of Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days and writing regular dispatches about his travels for the newspaper Paris-Soir. (Callow's informative new introduction sets Cocteau's trip in the context of his whole career.) First published in book form (and in English translation) in 1936 and 1937, this compilation of articles remains a rushed and superficial performance, lacking the drama and suspense of Verne's classic. Still, fans of travel writing or of Cocteau will find this whirlwind jaunt an enjoyable romp, studded with startling observations on diverse cultures and flashes of subversive wit. In Rome, the French poet/novelist/dramatist/filmmaker paints a chilling picture of Mussolini's fascism tightening its stranglehold on the nation. In Greece, he sifts forlorn vestiges of the mythical landscape that had fueled his imagination and art. Notions of the exotic, the mysterious Orient and downtrodden yet spiritual people color Cocteau's vivid account of travels in Japan, India, Singapore, Burma, Malaya and Hong Kong. Joining Cocteau on his globe-hopping tour was his lover Marcel Khill, who sought out brothels and opium dens with him. Honolulu, San Francisco, Hollywood, New York all pass by in a blur of hasty impressions, dazzling imagery, clich s and scattered genuine insights for, at his best, Cocteau writes with the soul of a poet and the sharp eye of a seasoned world traveler. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
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