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The Holy Terrors (Les Enfants Terribles) Paperback – Illustrated, January 17, 1966
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Frequently bought together
― W.H. Auden
"One of the master craftsmen."
― Tennessee Williams
About the Author
Rosamond Nina Lehmann (1901 – 1990) was a British novelist.
- ASIN : 0811200213
- Publisher : New Directions (January 17, 1966)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 192 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780811200219
- ISBN-13 : 978-0811200219
- Item Weight : 7.5 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.3 x 0.6 x 8.1 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #203,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Those unique, weirdly absorbing, hard-to-understand, unpopular (meaning not mainstream) tales are something I admire. I actually learned of this book while watching Jeopardy one night, when the clue read: 2 siblings create a sinister, unreal world of their own in Cocteau’s tale of these “enfants” and it struck a chord with me. The only thing that bothers me is that I lost focus of the story at some points due to the high-level of vocabulary and constant use of adjectives and words that were unfamiliar to me. Nevertheless, I feel like just read something special. Just when I thought that maybe all my hope was for nothing, I sit down and read the last 40-50 pages, and am rewarded with some absolutely mind-blowing literature. It's a shame because it appears this book will all-too-soon become a forgotten classic.
(Also, due to them both being old, French novels, and both having characters who play upon emotions and mess with reality, this book strongly reminded me of Dangerous Liaisons, a novel I will someday read and a movie of which I am a huge fan.)
This book is a fairly quick and easy read, but it's still rich in its language and with unforgettable characters. It should also appeal to a wide range of readers. Anyone who enjoys French literature, psychological drama, Shakespearean tragedies, or fantasy fiction will really enjoy this book.
Top reviews from other countries
Jean Cocteau's The Holy Terrors has been deservedly praised, but not necessarily understood. To describe the work as 'avant guard' or 'surrealist' is like labelling a jar, then leaving it on the shelf, unopened.
The work is pure poetry, not narrative, although there is a plot line with characters interacting.
The world of Paul and Elisabeth hangs between dimensions, and the brother and sister travel the inner realms from their 'Room,' 'anchored' like a ship swinging freely' among worlds. The story of Paul and Elisabeth is about the fate of twin-flames, one soul split into two bodies (male and female) and the impossibility for them of living as such in this physical world.
The poetry compels the reader with unswerving velocity toward their fate, which delivers Paul and Elisabeth permanently out of fission and into fusion in inner realms 'where incest lurks no more.'
Jean Cocteau creates poetry out of his childhood agony, particularly his father's suicide when Jean was nine, and his own bloody injury from a snowball containing a rock. Both events are also the focus in his haunting film 'Blood of a Poet.' One feels that all the characters in The Holy Terrors, as well as the 'Room' itself and the 'Game' are deeply personal parts of his own multi-dimensional consciousness. Cocteau is all aspects of The Holy Terrors.
As an alchemist, Cocteau would have spent many hours daily, over decades, in the Mysteries travelling inter-dimensionally to heal himself and attempt to find meaning in his childhood traumas. The stunning genius of his poetry recasts the random as heroic myth.
He describes how Paul "folded in these tenebrous vistas, these alternating panels of light and darkness" became a cat, wary, his every sense alert. His eyes began to glitter. He went padding here and there, stopping, snuffing, not consciously aware "but feeling along his nerves the subterranean tremors of a buried life."
The Holy Terrors is indeed a catlike search, within the rubble and chaos of an inner cast of characters, for the unknown self.
Cocteau's simple line drawings for this work symbolize his deliberate caprice in relation to physicality. If one could pull one end of his line drawings, the whole figure would disappear. His minimal sketches use as few lines as possible. One feels they might change if one looks away.
He gives us a world of shocks and surprises, as in the dimensional doorway ' the mirror that becomes water' in 'Blood of a Poet.' There, and in The Holy Terrors, one is forced to dive from one reality into another with only the strength of the narrator's poetry as a touchstone. But this is the incomprehensible experience of true alchemical transformation. One burns endlessly in alchemical God-Fire, shifting helplessly from one level of consciousness to another, until at last one learns to abandon ego and discover the Self.