Jean Genet

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Jean Genet, 1983.

Jean Genet (19 December 191015 April 1986) was a prominent and controversial French novelist, playwright, poet, essayist, and political activist.



The Thief's Journal (1949)

  • This violence is a calm that disturbs you.
  • But I would adore that thief who is my mother.
  • If the hero join combat with night and conquer it, may shreds of it remain upon him!
  • I suffered at the time from an ugliness I no longer find on my childhood face.
  • By remaining inaccessible, he became the epitome of those whom I have named and who stagger me. I was therefore chaste.
  • Fierce and pure, I was the theater of a fairyland restored to life.
  • To achieve harmony in bad taste is the height of elegance.
  • Yet, what is their violence compared to mine, which was to accept theirs, to make it mine, to wish it for myself, to intercept it, to utilize it, to force it upon myself, to know it, to premeditate it, to discern and assume its perils? But what was mine, willed and necessary for my defense, my toughness, my rigor, compared to the violence they underwent like a malediction, risen from an inner fire simultaneously with an outer light which sets them ablaze and illuminates us?
  • But--criminals are remote from you--as in love, they turn away and turn me away from the world and its laws. Thiers smells of sweat, sperm, and blood. In short, to my body and my thristy soul it offers devotion. It was because their world contains these erotic conditions that I was bent on evil.
  • With homosexuality added, it would be sparkling, unassimilable.
    • In reference to the French Gestapo
  • Excluded by my birth and tastes from the social order, I was not aware of its diversity. I wondered at its perfect coherence, which rejected me.

The Balcony (1956)

  • So long as we were in a room in a brothel, we belonged to our fantasies, but once having exposed them, we're now tied up with human beings, tied to you and forced to go on with this adventure according to the laws of visibility.

Edmund White's preface to Prisoner of Love

  • The Day the Palestinians become institutionalized, I will no longer be on their side.

Quotes about Jean Genet

  • There has been talk about (The Blacks) revival. Angelou comments: "It was a very important play. It still is an important play. It implies that, come the revolution, Blacks will be as bad and as greedy as Whites have been. What goes around comes around, which is a very Black statement, an African statement, too. "Working for me as a young woman, with the cast of The Blacks, was an incredible experience. The original cast included Cecily (sic) Tyson, James Earl Jones, Raymond St. Jacques, Roscoe Lee Browne, Lou Gossett, Charles Gordone, Helen Martin, Cynthia Belgrave, Jay Flash Riley, Lex Monson, Godfrey Cambridge, Ethel Ayler, and me. It was the thing to go into; if you were out of a job, go try out for The Blacks. It was wonderful to break down the play together. Obviously it fed all our artistic growth. "It would be interesting to see it today with some new people. All the [original] actors have done so many things since [that they] would bring so much other equipment to it now. Just like the time-instead of 1960-61, 1977 has its own rhythm and its own impetus.
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