Prepared and translated by Akvilė Žilionytė, 2013-03-22

In brief: Jean Cocteau (1889 – 1963) is a French writer, poet, director, artist who created costumes, stained-glass works, mosaics and who played jazz. J. Cocteau used to work as a boxing manager and ambulance driver. The artist understood at the end of his life that he did not realise himself and became a ceramicist.

Original issue of J.Cocteu's play "Terrible Parents", 1938

The artist became interested in cinema in his young years, when he experienced the surrealistic period; therefore, the contribution of J. Cocteau to surrealism, especially in French cinematography (films “Poet’s Blood” (1930), “Terrible Parents” (1948), “Orpheus” (1950), is very significant.

The playwright J. Cocteau created dramas based on mythical and classical plots: “Orpheus” (1925), “King Oedipus” (1925). Special notice should be made about the ballet “Parade” (1917) created by S. Diagilev and J. Cocteau (J. Cocteau wrote its libretto, P. Picasso created the set design, E. Satie – music, L. Massine – choreography), which caused a wild reaction of the audience: the audience understood the ballet as farce and mockery.

J. Cocteau stood out by his skill to make acquaintances easily; therefore, the interview presented in Lithuanian taken by William Fifield in 1964 (it is the last interview given by J. Cocteau – the artist died after this conversation) is full of names and surnames. His friends Raymond Radiguet, Jean Marais are mentioned in the interview – the writer lived with them for twenty-six years; also, he speaks about the friendship of J.Cocteau with P. Picasso, M. Proust, I. Stravinski, etc. The artist told himself in the interview in 1959 that two stages could be noticed in his life: 1. The stage of Proust and Rostand; 2. The stage of Picasso and Stravinski.

Cocteau, called a light-headed and illusionist in Paris, did not have his own home but he did not sleep under tables like R. Radiguet – he always found somebody who invited him for a short visit. People spoke about Cocteau in Paris as about a person who comes for lunch. Sometimes short visits lasted for three or even ten years. For instance, J. Cocteau lived in the villa Santo Sospir of the rich Francine Weisweiller for ten years, decorated all its walls and created a film about this villa later.

Only two literature works of J.Cocteau “Orpheus” and “Terrible Parents” have been translated to Lithuanian.

The interview with J.Cocteu taken by William Fifield for the publication “Paris Review” in 1964 revealing some moments of the life of the French writer and his attitudes is presented to readers in Lithuanian.

The full interview in English may be found here:





Translated into Lithuanian by permission of Donnali Fifield, the literary executor of William Fifield. 

This translation may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the prior written consent of Donnali Fifield. Contact: The William Fifield Collection, Times Two Publishing Company,

About William Fifield

The novelist and nonfiction writer William Fifield (1916-1987) published interviews with Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, and Robert Graves in “The Paris Review.”

This translation is an abridged version of the text of his conversation with Cocteau in the literary magazine (Summer-Fall 1964 issue, “Writers at Work” series). In the same issue, Fifield published “Pablo Picasso: A Composite Interview,” which features a discussion by Cocteau of Picasso’s creative method.

Parts of this translated conversation appear on the recording “Jean Cocteau: A Self-Portrait, A Conversation with William Fifield in French.” He also published “Jean Cocteau par Jean Cocteau,” a book-length version of the interview, and “Jean Cocteau,” a monograph in the Columbia Essays on Modern Writers series.

Caedmon Records released his recorded conversations with Jean Cocteau and Marcel Marceau, and both recordings are available at the Times Two Publishing Company, which is reissuing the author’s work in a digital archive, The William Fifield Collection.

The Cocteau works are included in the archive’s “La série Cocteau.”

A noted short story writer, William Fifield was the winner of an O. Henry Award. He began his career writing for “Suspense,” “Lights Out,” and other classic radio programs in New York and Hollywood before moving to Europe in 1950. He was the author, with Alexis Lichine, of the “Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits.” His other works include novels, essays, a biography of Modigliani, and an illustrated history of the great sherry-making families of Spain.

In 1982, he published “In Search of Genius,” a book of his conversations with Picasso, Cocteau, Dalí, Graves, Rossellini, and others on the creative process.

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