PRISONER OF LOVE by Jean Genet
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PRISONER OF LOVE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Saint Genet's posthumous last book, a semi-surreal record of years spent with the Black Panthers in the US and with Palestinian soldiers in Jordan and Lebanon. With his celebrated literary career long abandoned, Genet (1910-86), a homosexual exconvict and castoff son of a whore, sought a strange kind of sainthood he could never achieve, one that embraced thieves and traitors. He began involving himself with marginal political groups in the late 1960's; these groups, he felt, kept him wrapped in the outcast state that he felt most warmed by. But however great his sympathies, he never surrendered his intellectual freedom and saw gaps in the groups' vague political programs. He loved, rather, individual fighters and here lists their virtues as proof of his love. As Edmund White says in his brilliant introduction, ""Love reconciles Genet's feelings that everyone is of equal value and that each parson is priceless....Emotions live on and only the people who entertain them die. 'The happiness of my hand in the hair of a boy another hand will know, already knows, and if I die this happiness will go on.'"" For fun, Genet accepted an invitation to spend a few days with the Palestinians--and stayed nearly two years. He tells no story here, leaps from one land to another while telescoping space and time, giving us perhaps the most intimate picture of terrorism ever written. Among the Panthers, terror is spectacle and theater, and what change the group brings about in fighting Nixon and white imperialism is through poetry. ""At the beginning of 1970 the Party still had both the suppleness and rigidity of a male sex organ: and it preferred erections to elections."" The crazy logic of the Palestinian phenomenon offers a broader, bloodier canvas as Genet writes under medical notice of his imminent death and seeks life in his nightmares and memories. Unfinished, provisional, inspired--and it may be updated when the original manuscript is found. Ringing with eloquence and intelligence.

Pub Date: April 24th, 1992
Page count: 398pp
Publisher: Wesleyan/Univ. Press of New England