Jean Cocteau called attention to his latest book of essays La Difficulté D'Etre as representative of his work, and the book which he most prefers. The following, which contains material from that book, appeared in Vogue, August 15th, 1949 and is reprinted with the cooperation of the author and the magazine.
IT IS RARE not to find in a man's work all that is valid in his conversation, but decanted and elevated in the same way that Picasso, picking up everything that he comes across, elevates it to the dignity of service. Can one call conversation that genius with which Picasso grumbles and sets up barbed wire between the world and what he thinks of the world? He kills stupidity every time he opens his mouth, even if he insists on contradicting himself. Picasso's speech is a sort of massacre which leaves nothing standing but the hard, the solid, and the valid.
Of the three or four people whose conversation dazzled me, Marcel Proust was really astonishing. Proust would arrive at impossible hours (if he went out) stammer, laugh, and gradually this accumulation of moaned parentheses became so beautiful that people who had started to leave did not leave at all.
Marcel Proust lived in a universe into which very few people succeeded in penetrating. His best-known conversation is epistolary. He wrote innumerable letters in which his ink spoke. It is impossible for me to read Marcel Proust without hearing his voice. His voice and the voice of Apollinaire will reman forever in my ear, or, to be more exact, in the auricles--the ears of my heart.
Nothing is stranger than the witchery of certain voices. It is probable that these voices are translated into the works of the men to whom they belong, are transported into them by I know not what mysterious vehicle, and affect even people who have never known