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Jean Genet

· Deathwatch by Jean Genet · Jean Genet: The Thief’s Journal

Deathwatch by Jean Genet

Deathwatch, Jean Genet‘s earliest, shortest and most formally straightforward play, was first performed in Paris in 1949.

It retains an intense power and makes an excellent introduction to his later dramas – The Maids, The Balcony, The Blacks, The Screens. The French text of Deathwatch, published by Gallimard, was extensively altered by Genet during rehearsal; and Bernard Frechtman’s translation is of the final ‘performance’ version, which supersedes the original published text.Three convicts share a cramped prison cell.

There is no question as to which of them is the dominant dog in the pack: Green Eyes (Yeux-Verts) has brutally murdered a woman and is to be executed.

Lefranc and the younger novice-like Maurice are inside for less grave crimes. But both of them covet Green Eyes’ attention, baiting each other in the process, a duel that drives inexorably toward violence

Three young convicts share a cell. Locked into a world of dangerous rivalries, criminals Lefranc and Maurice compete for the attention of the charismatic condemned man, Green-Eyes.

Informed by his own experience in French prisons, Jean Genet’s first play, Deathwatch is an explosive exploration of the inversion of moral order.

Genet was one of the most prominent and provocative writers of the twentieth century.

Jean Genet’s Deathwatch premiered in this translation by David Rudkin with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1987 and was revived at the Print Room, London, in April 2016.

Jean Genet was born in Paris in 1910. An illegitimate child who never knew his parents, he was abandoned to the Public Assistance Authorities. He was ten when he was sent to a reformatory for stealing; thereafter he spent time in the prisons of nearly every country he visited in thirty years of prowling through the European underworld. With ten convictions for theft in France to his credit he was, the eleventh time, condemned to life imprisonment. Eventually he was granted a pardon by President Auriol as a result of appeals from France’s leading artists and writers led by Jean Cocteau. His first novel, Our Lady of the Flowers, was written while he was in prison, followed by Miracle of the Rose, the autobiographical The Thief’s Journal, Querelle of Brest and Funeral Rites. He wrote six plays: The Balcony, The Blacks, The Screens, The Maids, Deathwatch and Splendid’s (the manuscript of which was rediscovered only in 1993). Jean Genet died in 1986.

Deathwatch
by Jean Genet
English
Translated by David Rudkin
Play
Faber & Faber
Paperback
64 pages
2016
ISBN 9780571332618
£9.99

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Jean Genet: The Thief’s Journal

“One of the strongest and most vital accounts of a life ever set down on paper. . . . Genet has dramatized the story of his own life with a power and vision which take the breath away. The Thief’s Journal will undoubtedly establish Genet as one of the most daring literary figures of all time.” — The New York Post

The Thief’s Journal is perhaps Jean Genet’s most authentically biographical novel, personifying his quest for spiritual glory through the pursuit of evil. Writing in the intensely lyrical prose style that is his trademark, the man Jean Cocteau dubbed France’s “Black Prince of Letters” here reconstructs his early adult years—time he spent as a petty criminal and vagabond, traveling through Spain and Antwerp, occasionally border hopping across the rest of Europe, always one step ahead of the authorities.

The infamous playwright, poet, novelist, and criminal, Jean Genet, was born December 19th, 1910, in France. Genet’s mother, who was a young prostitute at the time of his birth, gave him up for adoption to a provincial family. By the age of fifteen, for repeated misdemeanors, Genet was incarcerated for three years, after which he joined the French Foreign Legion. He was dishonorably discharged for “lewd acts”, henceforth spending the next several years traveling around Europe, at times as a prostitute. In 1937 he came to Paris, where again he was arrested and imprisoned for vagabondage. It was in prison, though, that Genet personally funded his first novel Our Lady of the Flowers (1944).

After being released from prison, Genet sought out the avant-garde writer, Jean Cocteau, who was impressed by Genet’s work, and even petitioned the French president, along with Jean-Paul Sartre, to exonerate Genet, after being faced with a life sentence. Genet became associated with the Theatre of Cruelty, which his most famous pieces became associated with, for example, The Maids (1949), Deathwatch (1949), The Balcony (1956), and The Blacks (1958). Other celebrated works of Genet include the novel, A Thief’s Journal (1949), about his experiences in prison, and The Screens (1963), a biting political play about the Algerian War of Independence. Genet died of throat cancer in 1986.

Published in 1964, and again on August 21, 2018: Jean Genet’s The Thief’s Journal, with a new intro by Patti Smith

The Thief’s Journal
by Jean Genet
With a New Introduction by Patti Smith
Translated from French by Bernard Frechtman
Foreword by Jean-Paul Sartre
Imprint Grove Paperback
Grove Press
272 pages
Publication Date August 21, 2018
ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2827-0
Dimensions 5.5″ x 8.25″
US List Price $16.00

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