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The Difficulty of Being

3.93  ·  Rating Details  ·  229 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
Writer, filmmaker, visual artist, and celebrated leader of the French avant-garde, Jean Cocteau (1889–1963) once announced, "One must know how to go too far." The astounding scope of his work stands as a testament to that revolutionary spirit. Throughout his life he boldly experimented in almost every medium and achieved enduring success in them all: novels like Les Enfant ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published March 21st 1995 by Da Capo Press (first published 1947)
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The Difficulty of Being

With La difficulté d'être (1947) Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) has written a collection of short autobiographical essays on the apparent model of the classic French moralists. Of these I have read but Montaigne and a little of de La Rochefoucauld, so I can hardly draw lines of influence and style for Cocteau's essays. With titles like "De l'amitié" and "Des moeurs", etc. he deliberately alludes to Montaigne (*), but he delivers essays which are notably shorter and less erudit
Jinny Chung
Mar 04, 2012 Jinny Chung marked it as to-read
"My worst fault, like almost everything in me, springs from childhood. For I am still the victim of those unhealthy rites which make children obsessive, so that they arrange their plates in a certain way at meals and only step over certain grooves in the pavement.
"In the midst of work, here are these symptoms gripping me, forcing me to resist what is driving me, involving me in strange halting writing, preventing me from saying what I want to say.
"That is why my style often assumes an air of its
Jun 24, 2013 Yossie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite interesting. Interesting enough to keep me going.
I let out a few "hmm"s and "ahh"s, and then I reached the section titled: ‘On Beauty’

What Cocteau had to say about beauty intrigued me.
This, especially:
Beauty in art is a stratagem that she uses to immortalise herself. She travels, she pauses on her way, she fertilises human minds. Artists provide her with a vehicle. They do not know her. It is by them and outside them that she pursues her mission. Should they try to get hold of her by for
Ioan Suhov
May 19, 2015 Ioan Suhov rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Un style simple, mais tout à fait ravissant. Les mémoires d'une âme et de ses soucis qui deviennent, par la manière dont on récite, les soucis d'être et de la condition humaine.
Aug 20, 2014 Madhuri rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: movie, non-fiction
In this book, Cocteau has put together small essays on various topics. Some of these essays are very personal and honest in nature (like On Childhood). These are lovely to read, specially because the writer seems to be speaking from the heart. These are short, and ideas don't appear to be grandstanded.
But in the later essays, the voice begins to get impersonal, and the ideas insincere. For example the ideas on lines, beauty, etc. are a bit preachy and also dense. It is at this point that my inte
Oct 08, 2013 Megan rated it really liked it
Just lovely. I especially liked Jean Cocteau talking about hanging out with Stravinsky in the Alps, talking about the opera Faust, and how great it is, and how dreamy, and the grandson of the composer of the opera coming over and being like "I'm the grandson of the composer! He totally did dream those melodies! That's why they sound so dreamy!"

No one name drops like Cocteau.
Feb 01, 2015 Julie rated it really liked it
The Difficulty of Being, ended up being more interesting than I thought it would be. A memoir as it is described, about his creative development, bits about childhood and some of his inner criticisms. A highly quotable book throughout and there were many times lots of tid-bits of worthy wisdom in a few words that I wanted to collect in some kind of quote scrapbook. Usually, in this kind of work there are more interesting sections than others. I found his take on Dreams completely wonderful and a ...more
Jun 23, 2007 M rated it it was amazing
Whenever I have a "difficulty in being," I read this beauty by Cocteau, the philosopher king.
Dec 04, 2014 Merinde rated it liked it
This book is like sitting down across from Jean Cocteau and talking for him for hours. I wish.

"I had come to imagine us so clearly, youth matching my youth, standing at a street corner, sitting in a square, lying face down on a bed, elbows on a table, gossiping together. And I leave you. Without leaving you, needless to say, since I am so closely merged with my ink that my pulse beats into it. Do you not feel it under your thumb, as it holds the corner of the pages? That would astonish me, sinc
Jan 31, 2016 Jan rated it liked it
Probably would have found this deep and philosophical if I read it awash with absinthe and cheese, but just found it very disjointed; like one long non-sequitur. Perhaps if I'd read more of his stuff before I'd have got more out of it.
Mar 16, 2009 Dan rated it liked it
Cocteau’s theory of art is expressive—his emphasis is on the producer of art, and not the consumer (in general, he asserts that one reads oneself when one reads—i.e., one sees oneself reflected in the art one beholds). In some instances, Cocteau interprets beauty as a function of Nature; in others he traces it to the individual personality of the artist.
The book has self-conscious moments, with Cocteau addressing the reader and making direct reference to writing the book that the reader is in th
Dec 15, 2015 Nathan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Spent far too much time trudging through this pretentious twaddle, hoping there would be some redemption towards the end.

Rare glimmers of 'real insight', but for the most part a wandering torment of verbal procrastination; a sponge bath of name dropping and egotism.

I'd vote 1 star in that frustrated Goodreads non-expert manner that many do, but I am aware that between the trees lies the shrubbery of genuine profundity—I was probably just too impatient to search it out.
Aug 17, 2014 Kirk rated it liked it
That youth progresses by injustice, is justice. For soon enough comes the age of looking back. One returns and can then enjoy what one strode over or trampled underfoot on one's way.
Aug 31, 2012 Louis added it
I have not read this book record yet but I've been turning chapters in Cocteau by Francis Steegmuller for years, Cocteau was the spark for most of the artists in all facets of endeavour and a very interesting man about the world. His biography is worth the read.
Nov 26, 2015 Ana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Não entendi tudo desse livro porque, sinceramente, não sou tão erudita assim. Mas alguns capítulos me emocionaram muito; especialmente os que tratam do ato da criação e da escrita. Cocteau sem dúvida deixou uma boa parte de si nessa obra. Recomendo.
A trifle wordy and name-drop heavy, but also intriguing and beautifully written. I especially loved "On Death" and "On Beauty". Definitely something to quote and re-read.
Apr 17, 2010 JoAnne rated it liked it
Shelves: existential-etc, art
Re-reading this gem of a book. I pick it up every several years and it always seems as fresh as the first time I read it.
kate rushing
Nov 08, 2009 kate rushing rated it it was amazing
quite captivating thus far. if he wasn't cocteau, i'd think the whole thing rather narcissistic and self-indulgent.
Nov 25, 2013 Capucine rated it it was amazing
The Difficulty of Being rhymes with Difficulty of Reading, this book needs to be read and re-read.
Inês Teles  Carvalhal
I feel this book will accompany me throught my life
Kobe Bryant
Nov 26, 2013 Kobe Bryant rated it it was ok
Its just this guys opinion on things, I can do that too
Oct 30, 2008 RJ added it
The Difficulty Of Being by Jean Cocteau (1995)
I'd give this 3.5 stars if I could.
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Aug 18, 2016
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Jean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau (5 July 1889 – 11 October 1963) was a French poet, novelist, dramatist, designer, boxing manager, playwright and filmmaker. Along with other Surrealists of his generation (Jean Anouilh and René Char for example) Cocteau grappled with the "algebra" of verbal codes old and new, mise en scène language and technologies of modernism to create a paradox: a classical a ...more
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“I succeeded in bewitching a fair number and in being intoxicated with my mistakes.” 15 likes
“Youth can only assert itself through the conviction that its ventures surpass all others and resemble nothing.” 8 likes
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