QUERELLE by Jean Genet


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Genet is a nihilist who writes without fury, a rebel who remains one of those rare and insolent free spirits. We think of the foaming prose of Sade, of the vituperations of Dostoevsky or Celine, and we touch the rage of a lifetime. With Genet we are in the magical presence of the devil with the smile on his lips. His works are a justificatio diaboli, chronicles of an underworld whose heroes are hoods, thieves and murderers. Though they celebrate the realm of the Prince of Darkness, they speak the language of an inverted sanctity. Genet's most sardonic remarks always have about them the aura of the angelic: ""Je suis alle vers le vol comme vers une liberation."" Even his sexual debauches, his openly masturbatory scenes depicting love among males, blatantly interlarded with vulgar argot and designed to shock, have, nevertheless, the equanimity of ritual acts, of forbidden dreams, the poetry of depravity. In Querelle, the last of Genet's brilliant quasi-autobiographical fantasies, originally published in France in 1953, we're offered a Handsome Sailor whose virility and beauty are ""enhanced"" through murders: one that he himself commits, another that he aids, a third that he arranges. There are many characters but all are more or less manifestations of Querelle, especially his twin, Robert, and Madame Lysiane, Robert's mistress, who also becomes the mistress of Querelle. Mirror-images predominate, the most complex being that of the trapped, rugged figure of Lt. Seblon, whose deepest desire -- gratified -- is to be both loved and betrayed by the irrepressible Querelle. How much of Genet is defense of the indefensible, of battles without honor, of the wisdom of the monstrous! And yet, whether among the bourgeois or in the underworld, it is his destiny to be irrevocably an outsider, to have no brothers. Thus he insures his mystery, his isolation, his glory, his despair.

Pub Date: Aug. 20th, 1974
ISBN: 0802151574
Publisher: Grove