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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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