THE VISION OF JEAN GENET by Richard N. Coe

THE VISION OF JEAN GENET

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KIRKUS REVIEW

It would be easy enough to call the vision of Jean Genet a world of absolute negativity, the extraordinary solitude of a self-deified thief, jailbird, and homosexual prostitute. But Genet's mirror images, narcissistic though they be, are constantly in flux, therefore ""relative,"" and his negativity, through the beautiful creation of his writings, becomes luminous and positive, the poete mandit blessing himself in the darkness. Professor Coe, in the best study so far from an Englishman or an American, attempts to solve the duality by considering Genet ""a classic case of existentialist schizophrenia."" Genet, he tells us, ""possesses two distinct personalities, or rather, two distinct identities; the first, that which he presents to Others, the second, that which he really is within himself."" Naturally, language like that means that much of Coe's argument, especially as he develops it, comes straight out of the monumental Saint Genet and Sartre's ingenious reflet-reflctant dialectic. Coe is much more common sensical or empirical, however, and the familiar categories of appearance and reality, le Mal, authenticity, betrayal, and so forth, are presented here in plainer literary or psychological dress without Sartre's weighty philosophical attributes. Further, there are vigorous interpretations of Genet's three major plays, The Balcony, The Blacks, and The Screens, all of which were produced prior to Saint Genet. So the book is broad, steadily engaging, readable. Where it fails is where all commentary on Genet fails, including Sartre's. It does not present Genet in historical and ""religious"" perspective, with Sade, Rimbaud, Lautreamont, all the fallen angels. A future task.

Pub Date: July 10th, 1968
Publisher: Grove