Literary Birthday – 5 July – Jean Cocteau

Jean Cocteau was born 5 July 1889, and died 11 October 1963.


  1. The poet doesn’t invent. He listens.
  2. We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don’t like?
  3. Art produces ugly things which frequently become more beautiful with time. Fashion, on the other hand, produces beautiful things which always become ugly with time.
  4. A true poet does not bother to be poetical. Nor does a nursery gardener scent his roses.
  5. After you have written a thing and you reread it, there is always the temptation to fix it up, to improve it, to remove its poison, blunt its sting.
  6. Such is the role of poetry. It unveils, in the strict sense of the word. It lays bare, under a light which shakes off torpor, the surprising things which surround us and which our senses record mechanically.
  7. The greatest masterpiece in literature is only a dictionary out of order.
  8. You’ve never seen death? Look in the mirror every day and you will see it like bees working in a glass hive.
  9. When I write, I disturb. When I show a film, I disturb. When I exhibit my painting, I disturb, and I disturb if I don’t. I have a knack for disturbing.
  10. What is history after all? History is facts which become lies in the end.

Jean Cocteau was a French artist, poet, novelist, playwright, and filmmaker. Cocteau is best known for his novel Les Parents Terribles, and the films, Beauty and the Beast and Orpheus. His circle of associates included Pablo Picasso, Yul Brynner, Marlene Dietrich, Coco Chanel, Igor Stravinsky, and Édith Piaf.

Source for Image: Agence de presse Meurisse, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons,_1923,_Colourised.jpg

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 5th July 2013