..
.
.
Jean Cocteau and Dargelos
.
.

UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER
Jean Cocteau (to the left) with a Class Mate (possibly Dargelos), 1902
  .
xx





"In a chapter of his diary, published in 1953, Jean Cocteau described what happened to him when he was walking down the street on which a large part of his youth had been spent. He had been in the neighborhood before; but a vague diffidence, known to us all, had restrained him from going further and looking at his old house. But this time he did enter the porch of the house, and in a few moments he was in the back yard. He saw that the trees had grown higher, and he was trying to identify other changes, when a suspicious voice asked him the reason for his presence. His honest answer could not convince the man, and after a few minutes he found himself back in the street. Cocteau, who did not want to lose the charm of his past too soon, recalled the way he used to walk through the streets and on the pavement. He remembered that he used to walk close to the houses, trailing his finger along the wall.

Who did not do that, when he was a child? The gates were a special attraction; hand and finger would leap from one spike to the next. The porches involved the delightful necessity of climbing the steps; the finger then traced the panel on the door; one was almost assimilated by the unknown behind it of which sometimes the smell reached us. No porch, no door, no gate was neglected. We would not have dared to forget even one of them, convinced as we were that the silent reproach or the dumb complaint of the one we forgot to touch with our finger would come down on us. The obligation made us bold. Sometimes the porches were very deep they have never been so deep again - and very occasionally we even had to force ourselves bravely into long dark passages which implied unexpected and, in our eyes, dangerous incidents. But we had to; the door at the end of the walk was relentless. A child feels compassion for forgotten things. If he is to feel every tree along the road, then it is impossible for him to leave the lone tree, far to the side, devoid of his benevolent touch. We lose this compassion. We no longer believe in the aliveness of things and consequently we are deaf to their entreaties. The habit of tracing the unevennesses of the walls with one's finger gets lost. We don't do it anymore.

But Cocteau did. Thinking of the past, he trailed his hand along the wall. But he was not satisfied with the result; he felt something was missing. Suddenly it became clear to him what was wrong: he had been smaller as a child, his hand had touched surfaces which he missed as an adult simply because he was drawing a different line. He decided to repeat the experiment, but this time he bent down. (In Paris one can do such a thing.) He bent down, closed his eyes, and let his hand trace the wall at a height, which had been natural in the days he went to school. And immediately appeared what he had vaguely been expecting. 'Just as the needle picks up the melody from the record, I obtained the melody of the past with my hand. I found everything: my cape, the leather of my satchel, the names of my friends and of my teachers, certain expressions I had used, the sound of my grandfather's voice, the smell of his beard, the smell of my sister's dresses and of my mother's gown.' "

from "The Changing Nature of Man - An Introduction To A Historical Psychology
" by J. H. van den Berg


x.