SAINT GENET by Jean-Paul Sartre


Actor And Martyr
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Staggering work. It is not only the tour de force of literary criticism, but also a most profound, protean breakthrough into the nature of reality and appearance, of freedom and determinism, of good and evil. It is also a tapestry of tensions in the form of a tribute to novelist-playwright Jean Genet. a guilty age, says Sartre, Genet holds up the mirror; we must look at it and see ourselves. Crushed at first by a double-dealing bourgeois background (a bastard, then a foster child, then a reform school thug) Genet turns himself "inside out ike a glove"; little by little he digests "destiny", spews forth the pieces; public self-acceptance is denied him but private self-transcendence is not. An "actor" and "martyr", he plays the roles of criminal-homosexual. Sentenced to prison for , he metamorphoses memory into myth, writes his autobiographical fantasias, continuing to live and relive a liturgical instant of childhood: a child dies of shame, a hoodlum rises in his place, the hoodlum will be haunted by the child. enet stakes his life on a single card in a game of "loser wins"; he "invents" a ort of satanic theology, a psychological inversion so complete, an immoral commitment so thorough, that Genet the scapegoat of society becomes Genet the saint of the imagination. As a real-life existential hero, as a "condemned" man, he hooses the consequences of rock-bottom consciousness... This is an amazing analysis of alienation which, incidentally, throws out both Marx and Freud; a superb study of artistic creation as both subject and object. It will irritate; more, it will influence- indeed- it already has. For, published 10 years ago in France, what are the hipster ethics of Norman Mailer or the Negro revolt as preached by James Saldwin but imitations? In any case, in any way you look at it, a real work of real importance.
Pub Date: June 15th, 1963
ISBN: 0434671584
Page count: 652pp
Publisher: Braziller
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1963


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