Souvenir Portraits: Paris in the Belle Epoque

Jean Cocteau, Author, Jesse Browner, Translator Paragon House Publishers $17.95 (173p) ISBN 978-1-55778-158-1
Written in 1935, these frothy sketches of Cocteau's boyhood and youth make Paris from 1900 to the outbreak of WW I seem eons distant. Cameos of Isadora Duncan, Colette, Cosima Wagner, Edmond Rostand, Sarah Bernhardt, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Mistinguett and others add ballast. In writing about a rebellious school chum, the circus and his parents, the French poet-painter-filmmaker evokes a growing boy's rapt fascination and awe of the adult world. Fifty-seven jaunty, charming drawings by the author accompany the text. One of the book's chief rewards is Cocteau's intoxicating prose, now lyrical (``the moon so crisp it would be naive to see it as anything but a ruin''), now aphoristic (``Fashion dies young, and it is that condemned look that gives it nobility''), literary qualities skillfully evoked in this translation by Browner, who also translated Cocteau's Diary of an Unknown. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/05/1990
Release date: 06/01/1990
Hardcover - 173 pages - 978-1-56924-961-1
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