Notable Quotes
Browse quotes by subject | Browse quotes by author


Jean Cocteau (1889-1963)

French author, actor, film director, and painter

We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don’t like?

JEAN COCTEAU, attributed, Forbes, 1985

A true poet does not bother to be poetical. Nor does a nursery gardener scent his roses.

JEAN COCTEAU, "Le Secret Professionnel," A Call to Order

Respect movements, flee schools.

JEAN COCTEAU, Diary of an Unknown

The public is never pleased with what we do, wanting always a copy of what we have done.

JEAN COCTEAU, The Paris Review, summer-fall, 1964

Wealth is an inborn attitude of mind, like poverty. The pauper who has made his pile may flaunt his spoils but cannot wear them plausibly.

JEAN COCTEAU, Les Enfants Terribles

Life is a horizontal fall.


We only serve as a model for the portrait of our fame.


After you have written a thing and you reread it, there is always the temptation to fix it up, to improve it, to remove its poison, blunt its sting.

JEAN COCTEAU, The Paris Review, summer-fall, 1964

What uniform can I wear to hide my heavy heart? It is too heavy. It will always show.

JEAN COCTEAU, The Miscreant

Mystery has its own mysteries, and there are gods above gods. We have ours, they have theirs. That is what’s known as infinity.

JEAN COCTEAU, The Infernal Machine

At all costs the true world of childhood must prevail, must be restored; that world whose momentous, heroic, mysterious quality is fed on airy nothings, whose substance is so ill-fitted to withstand the brutal touch of adult inquisition.

JEAN COCTEAU, The Holy Terrors

Youth can only assert itself through the conviction that its ventures surpass all others and resemble nothing.

JEAN COCTEAU, The Difficulty of Being

I have never felt any connection with my family. There is—I must say simply—something in me that is not in my family. That was not visible in my father or mother. I do not know its origin.

JEAN COCTEAU, The Paris Review, summer-fall, 1964

Anything of any importance cannot help but be unrecognizable, since it bears no resemblance to anything already known.

JEAN COCTEAU, Diary of an Unknown

The extreme limit of wisdom — that’s what the public calls madness.

JEAN COCTEAU, Le Coq et l'Arlequin

An artist cannot speak about his art any more than a plant can discuss horticulture.

JEAN COCTEAU, Newsweek, May 16, 1955

It is excruciating to be an unbeliever with a spirit that is deeply religious.

JEAN COCTEAU, attributed, The Visual Art of Jean Cocteau

Such is the role of poetry. It unveils, in the strict sense of the word. It lays bare, under a light which shakes off torpor, the surprising things which surround us and which our senses record mechanically.

JEAN COCTEAU, "Le Secret Professionnel," A Call to Order

Find first, seek later.

JEAN COCTEAU, Diary of an Unknown

Lack of manners is the sign of a hero.


The greatest masterpiece in literature is only a dictionary out of order.

JEAN COCTEAU, attributed, Where Books Fall Open

A prig always finds a last refuge in responsibility.

JEAN COCTEAU, preface, The Wedding on the Eiffel Tower

A film is a petrified fountain of thought.

JEAN COCTEAU, Esquire, Feb. 1961

I succeeded in bewitching a fair number and in being intoxicated with my mistakes.

JEAN COCTEAU, The Difficulty of Being

Poetry is indispensable — if I only knew what for.

JEAN COCTEAU, attributed, The Necessity of Art

When a work appears to be ahead of its time, it is only the time that is behind the work.

JEAN COCTEAU, Le Coq et l'Arlequin

True realism consists in revealing the surprising things which habit keeps covered and prevents us from seeing.

JEAN COCTEAU, Le Mystère Laïc

Statues to great men are made of the stones thrown at them in their lifetime.

JEAN COCTEAU, attributed, On and Off the Air

See your disappointments as good fortune. One plan's deflation is another's inflation.

JEAN COCTEAU, Diary of an Unknown

You’ve never seen death? Look in the mirror every day and you will see it like bees working in a glass hive.

JEAN COCTEAU, The Dick Cavett Show, Oct. 6, 1981

All good music resembles something. Good music stirs by its mysterious resemblance to the objects and feelings which motivated it.

JEAN COCTEAU, Le Coq et l'Arlequin

When I write, I disturb. When I show a film, I disturb. When I exhibit my painting, I disturb, and I disturb if I don't. I have a knack for disturbing.

JEAN COCTEAU, attributed, Transforming Narcissism

You are always concentrated on the inner thing. The moment one becomes aware of the crowd, performs for the crowd, it is spectacle.

JEAN COCTEAU, The Paris Review, summer-fall, 1964

What is history after all? History is facts which become lies in the end.

JEAN COCTEAU, The Observer, Sep. 22, 1957

One of the characteristics of the dream is that nothing surprises us in it. With no regret, we agree to live in it with strangers, completely cut off from our habits and friends.

JEAN COCTEAU, The Difficulty of Being

Be a mere assistant to your unconscious. Do only half the work. The rest will do itself.

JEAN COCTEAU, Diary of an Unknown

I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.

JEAN COCTEAU, attributed, How to Hide Your Cat from the Landlord

The day of my birth, my death began its walk. It is walking toward me, without hurrying.

JEAN COCTEAU, "Postambule," La Fin du Potomac

In Paris, everybody wants to be an actor; nobody is content to be a spectator.

JEAN COCTEAU, Le Coq et l'Arlequin


Life Quotes

Love Quotes

Death Quotes

God Quotes

Wisdom Quotes

Hope Quotes

Success Quotes

Women Quotes

Happiness Quotes

Shakespeare Quotes