Le Potomak, précédé d'un Prospectus 1916 by Jean Cocteau, Serge Linarès

By Jean Cocteau, Serge Linarès

« Les Eugènes, le Potomak, le papillon, je n’ai pas su pourquoi je les créais, ni quel rapport pouvait au juste s’établir entre eux. structure secrète. “Que préparez-vous ?” me demanda Canche. Je rougis.
Impossible de lui répondre. »

De ce livre singulier Jean Cocteau déclara : « Mon oeuvre start avec Le Potomak ; c’est une sorte de préface. » En effet, cette oeuvre hybride, alternant dessins et textes, d’une liberté absolue de forme, fut composée à l’aube de los angeles Première Guerre mondiale, et l’artiste l. a. tiendra toujours pour son authentique best livre. On y retrouve d’ailleurs le célèbre aphorisme dont il aurait pu faire sa devise : « Ce que le public te reproche, cultive-le, c’est toi. »
Fondé sur l’édition définitive établie par l’auteur en 1924, cet ouvrage surprenant et divertissant recueille de nombreuses illustrations tels les méconnus « Eugènes », et, bien sûr, le « Potomak », monstrueux pensionnaire d’un aquarium à Paris, porteur de poésie et de messages allégoriques.

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The losses seemed trifling; they gave up the pleasures of sleeping late, schmoozing with frienh, and dreaming up their own projects; they also gave up the deep anxiety of selling their dreams to indifterent editors so as ta eat and pay the rent, insiders sddom romanticized the life of free-lance writing. "" The gains of academic life-salaries, security, summersseemed hardly offset by the drawbacks: the occasional lectures at eight in the morning, the committee drudgery, and, sometimes, a new location distant from old friends.

T o be an intellectual entailed being a profeuor. This generation flowed into the universities, and if they wanted to Ese intellectuals, they stayed. The issue is not their taIent, caurage, or politics. Rather, the occasion to master a pubjic prose did not arise; consequently, their writings lacked a public impact. Regardless of their numbers, to the larger public they are invisible. The missing intellectuals are lost in the universities. For intellectualsborn before 1940 universities did not play the same role.

Trilling aludes to this in recalling his dissertatio~ "Something of the intellectual temper of the time . . "'~ Trilling was much the exception in following the straight and narrow academic path. D. , as did Iwing Howe or Alfred Kazin, or to be awarded degrees on the basis of past work, as were Daniel Bell or Nathao Glazer. A younger intellectual could no more show up for a dissertation "defense" with a collection of essays written for several magazines, which constituted The End ofideology, than he or she could show up without taking the requisite number of credits and seminars-and without paying the proper fees.

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