The Holy Terrors

Fiction

Jean Cocteau
translated by Rosamond Lehmann

Cocteau's novel Les Enfants terribles, which was first published in 1929, holds an undisputed place among the classics of modern fiction. Written in a French style that long defied successful translation––Cocteau was always a poet no matter what he was writing––the book came into its own for English-language readers in 1955 when the present version was completed by Rosamond Lehmann. It is a masterpiece of the art of translation of which The Times Literary Supplement said: "It has the rare merit of reading as though it were an English original." Miss Lehmann was able to capture the essence of Cocteau's strange, necromantic imagination and to bring fully to life in English his story of a brother and sister, orphaned in adolescence, who built themselves a private world out of one shared room and their own unbridled fantasies. What started in games and laughter became for Paul and Elisabeth a drug too magical to resist. The crime which finally destroyed them has the inevitability of Greek tragedy.