JEAN GENET IN TANGIER by Mohamed Choukri


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When Genet came to the exotic Moroccan tourist trap, he was beset by celebrity-hunters, parasites, hustlers and beggars who saw in the rich European an opportunity to escape from the dreary poverty of their lives; and Choukri -- a clever lad versed in French literature -- was first and foremost among them. It wasn't money that Choukri had in mind, however, but something closer to adoption. ""Once I told him how much Papa hates me,"" he tells his little sister, ""and he offered to be my spiritual father."" Now with the publication of this little book (with photos) the young writer has achieved the sort of immortality that comes to personal friends of the super-famous. William Burroughs' introduction calls this ""a full-length portrait of Jean Genet"" but thumbnail sketch would be closer to the truth. Saint Genet it is not -- Choukri's observations are acute, but limited. The larger subject of his narrative is Tangier in all its backwardness and squalor -- the boy prostitutes, dwarfs and cripples, the Gnaoua musicians, the veiled Moslem women, the officious petty officials, the American hippies. Of Genet's oeuvre, Choukri seems to know only Le Journal de voleur, but the Frenchman for him is also the voice of Mallarme and the poetes maudits, Camus, Sartre, Dostoevsky -- a tradition of greatness unknown in Arabic culture. The boy is naturally worshipful, and Bowles got the story down on tape, transcribed, translated and presumably edited it. A fine contribution to oral literature.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1974
Publisher: Ecco Press -- dist. by Viking