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The Balcony Paperback – September 24, 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber (September 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571250300
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571250301
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,604,332 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Play by Jean Genet, produced and published in 1956 as Le Balcon. Influenced by the Theater of Cruelty, The Balcony contains nine scenes, eight of which are set inside the Grand Balcony bordello. The brothel is a repository of illusion in a contemporary European city aflame with revolution. After the city's royal palace and rulers are destroyed, the bordello's costumed patrons impersonate the leaders of the city. As the masqueraders warm to their roles, they convince even the revolutionaries that the illusion created in the bordello is preferable to reality. -- The Merriam-Webster Encylopedia of Literature --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

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.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on March 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
The madame of the famous Grand Balcony brothel provides a safe place where her clients can come to act out their fantasies and take on the identities of important government and religious figures in the real world. Outside the brothel, a revolution is raging, assisted by a former prostitute of the Grand Balcony who uses her voice to spur the rebels on to a greater victory. When the government finally topples, the whores and clients work together to take their impersonations out of the bedroom and restore order by assuming the identities of the great figures who they used to play in bed.
Sartre referred to Genet as the prototype of the existential man, whose past as a convicted felon and his subsequent literary career illustrated a life where personal choice drove the moral distinctions. I have read an been absorbed by a number of Genet's works, my favorites being _Our Lady of the Flowers_ and _The Maids_. While I don't believe that _The Balcony_ is up to the level of either of those works, it's an important piece of the history of the theater of the absurd.
Worth reading. Perhaps now more than ever in a world where actors regularly transition to politics.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Alfred Johnson on March 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
Recently, in reviewing the text for the plays "The Maids" and "The Blacks' by French writer and playwright, Jean Genet, I wrote the following first two paragraphs that apply to an appreciation of the play under review, "The Balcony", as well:

"There was a time when I would read anything the playwright Jean Genet wrote, especially his plays. The reason? Well, for one thing, the political thing that has been the core of my existence since I was a kid, his relationship to the Black Panthers when they were being systematically lionized by the international white left as the "real" revolutionaries and systematically liquidated by the American state police apparatus that was hell-bend on putting every young black man with a black beret behind bars, or better, as with Fred Hampton, Mark Clark and long list of others, dead. Genet, as his somewhat autobiographical "Our Lady Of The Flowers" details came from deep within a white, French version of that same lumpen "street" milieu from which the Panthers were recruiting. Thus, kindred spirits.

That kindred "street" smart relationship, of course, was like catnip for a kid like me who came from that same societal intersection in America, the place where the white lumpen thug elements meet the working poor. I knew the American prototype of Jean Genet, up close and personal, except, perhaps, for his own well-publicized homosexuality and that of others among the dock-side toughs that he hung around with. So I was ready for a literary man who was no stranger to life's seamy side. His play ,"The Maids", was the first one I grabbed (and I believe the first of his plays that I saw performed).
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Many people have seen the play "The Maids" or the realistic mid-70's movie with Glenda Jackson and Susannah York. But most of us are unfamiliar with "The Balcony."

The opening scenes with ordinary men pretending to be The Bishop, The Judge, and The General in the brothel are very interesting and set up high expectations. But this potential was not fulfilled. I think that it was fine that the play remained ambiguous about the outside revolution and the play acting with the prostitutes. But by the end of the play, the speeches aren't very informative and didn't contribute to the plot or to understanding the characters. This is one case where the lack of popularity for the play is reflected by the ineffective ending. Like "The Maids," it starts out jokey and turns absurd, but without a stronger more tragic and involving ending it just doesn't seem as good.
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