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Starting in 1970, Jean Genet-petty thief, prostitute, modernist master-spent two years in the Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan. Always an outcast himself, Genet was drawn to this displaced people, an attraction that was to prove as complicated for him as it was enduring. Prisoner of Love, written some ten years later, when many of the men Genet had known had been killed, and he himself was dying, is a beautifully observed description of that time and those men as well as a reaffirmation of the author's commitment not only to the Palestinian revolution but to rebellion itself. For Genet's most overtly political book is also his most personal-the last step in the unrepentantly sacrilegious pilgrimage first recorded in The Thief's Journal, and a searching meditation, packed with visions, ruses, and contradictions, on such life-and-death issues as the politics of the image and the seductive and treacherous character of identity. Genet's final masterpiece is a lyrical and philosophical voyage to the bloody intersection of oppression, terror, and desire at the heart of the contemporary world.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9781590170281
ISBN-10: 1590170288
Format: Paperback
(203mm x 126mm x 27mm)
Pages: 430
Imprint: NYRB Classics
Publisher: The New York Review of Books, Inc
Publish Date: 1-Jan-2003
Country of Publication: United States

Reviews

UK Kirkus Review » This is the last and most profound book from one of the greatest French writers of the 20th century. Jean Genet knew he was dying when he came to pen this political analysis of the Middle East conflict, and he poured every ounce of his poetic soul into its structure. What we have is a man in despair - for life passing, for opportunities lost, for people with the yoke of injustice to bear. He died within days of completing his masterwork. In order to understand the depth of Genet's writing it is necessary to know about his troubled life. He was abandoned in Paris as a baby, raised in a series of institutions and turned to crime as a child. Later he joined the Foreign Legion, deserted, became a pimp and a thief, considered criminals to be the cream of society and revered pornography as an art form. Throughout his life he championed the causes of underdogs and villains - society's misfits like himself. In this epic finale to his literary career he tells of the two years he spent in Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, and espouses the Palestinian cause against the Israelis. It is a deeply lyrical and at times puzzling book, often going off at tangents to discuss image as a political weapon, and the oppression that he sees as a vicious foundation of civilization. His own tortured soul seems to be crying out with that of the Palestinians he describes so heartrendingly. The book is too one-sided to be considered objective and it is a difficult read, but as an insight into the mind of downtrodden people everywhere it is moving and salutary. Translator Barbara Bray has done a remarkable job in projecting the subtleties of Genet's philosophy from French into English without harming its poetic essence. (Kirkus UK)


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Author Biography - Jean Genet

Jean Genet (1910-1986) was born in Paris. Abandoned by his mother at seven months, he was raised in state institutions and charged with his first crime when he was ten. After spending many of his teenage years in a reformatory, Genet enrolled in the Foreign Legion, though he later deserted, turning to a life of thieving and pimping that resulted in repeated jail terms and, eventually, a sentence of life imprisonment. In prison Genet began to write-poems and prose that combined pornography and an open celebration of criminality with an extraordinary baroque, high literary style-and on the strength of this work found himself acclaimed by such literary luminaries as Jean Cocteau, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir, whose advocacy secured for him a presidential pardon in 1948. Between 1944 and 1948 Genet wrote four novels, Our Lady of the Flowers, Miracle of the Rose, Funeral Rites, and Querelle, and the scandalizing memoir A Thief's Journal. Throughout the Fifties he devoted himself to theater, writing the boldly experimental and increasingly political plays The Balcony, The Blacks, and The Screens. After a silence of some twenty years, Genet began his last book, Prisoner of Love, in 1983. It was completed just before he died. Ahdaf Soueif is a novelist and a writer on political and cultural affairs. Her latest novel, The Map of Love, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1999. She was born in Egypt and lives in Cairo and London.

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