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The Thief's Journal Kindle Edition

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Length: 242 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation)

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.

Product Details

  • File Size: 783 KB
  • Print Length: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reissue edition (February 2, 1994)
  • Publication Date: February 2, 1994
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #138,970 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 57 people found the following review helpful By The Wingchair Critic on September 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
In Jean Genet's complex novel 'The Thief's Journal' (1949), the author has modeled his protagonist, Jean, on himself, and the loose, conversational plot after his own experiences as a young thief, drifter, and poet in thirties and forties Europe.

'Jean' is Genet's fictional recreation of himself; but readers should keep in mind that Jean's relationship to Genet is to some degree imaginative. The book provides an excellent illustration of how even when speaking or writing with as complete an honesty as believed possible, man is still caught in a process of creation, structuring, and discrimination--a process of fictionalization. Therefore, honesty, sincerity, and truthfulness always retain elements of artifice, and, as pure states, remain ideals only.

Abandoned by his family as a boy, sentenced to reform school at sixteen, as a young man, Jean is still "alone, rigorously so," he lives "with desolation in satanic solitude." Realizing early that he is, in status and nature, completely at odds with the social order, Jean learns through trial and error how to care and not to care, how to make all possible outcomes to his actions reasonably acceptable.

"Rejecting the world that rejected me," Jean exacerbates his position: identifying with his rejectee status, he feels it appropriate that he should "aggravate this condition with a preference for boys." Thus his homosexuality is at least partially an act of self-creation, part of his perverse desire to transgress the rules of order as broadly as possible. Jean decides he will henceforth admit to guilt whenever accused, regardless of the truth or the nature of the crime, and thus rob his accusers of the ability to jeopardize his fate.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Jason Sickmon ( on July 7, 1998
Format: Paperback
I don't think I would categorize The Thief's Journal as Gay fiction. I would allign it more with existentialism/metaphysics in that Genet's sensibilities and motives lie in other areas than solely his own homosexuality. Genet seeks to travel deeper and deeper within himself in order to reject "your world" as well as its inherent value and morals systems. I think his own homosexuality is among one of the many plateaus or steps that he uses in his "journey". As he says, his life was open to his own interpretation; the signs were interpreted in his own way for his own purposes. Sometimes Genet's prose is heavy in that his lines are long and he uses run-ons separated by commas. He takes great care in his descriptions (necessarily so) such as the gob of white saliva in the corner of someone's mouth. The work is another bold gesture by a man who brings the reader as close to the author as is seemingly possible. Another reviewer here says to check out Celine. Make sure to read the editions translated by Ralph Mannheim, he's superb.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
Jean Genet suffers a lot, I think, due to popular culture...the fact that his works necessarily involve homosexual activities leads mainstream culture (including even university professors!) to marginalize him beyond all rational limits, and leads conversely, the gay community to celebrate him possibly a little too much...but that's just my opinion. The fact is that he's a master of language, and when he writes about almost anything, it's transformed into an incredible landscape of experience, thought, desire, motives. In most of his purely fictional works he acts as an omniscient narrator to describe exactly why the characters do as they do...and in a way that not only makes perfect sense, but also in a way that the reader probably never thought of. This work being mostly autobiographical differs, actually, not much. If all you asked of this book was to take you into the world of small-time crime and skid row activities of barely post world war II europe, you'll be more than happily surprised. If you demand more, direct transportation even, to the world he was living in, you won't be disappointed.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By jacob cohen on November 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is mesmerising. The distinction between the beautiful and the obscene is folded inside out like a velvet glove. Abjection has never seemed so appealing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Herbert L Calhoun on April 20, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Genet, as this his first book aptly proves, is understood best when he has an interpreter: ideally the iconic Jean Paul Sartre (or as I later discovered in the review section as I was about to post this review, Mr. J.E. Barnes). Thus, I feel like I have cheated in having first read Sartre's "Saint Genet, in which all of Genet's works are put in a proper psychological context. I am not sure I could have gotten the full import of this book without Sartre's (and now Mr. Barnes') help.

Genet's dark, exquisite interior prose occupies a higher dimension in a universe on the plane above the heads of our normal understanding of the human condition. He treads on much forbidden terrain: thievery, homosexuality, treachery and betrayal, societally inspired structural and overt violence. His craft exists and extends far away from and on the outskirts of the normal socialized and socially adjusted human mental frame. Yet, because of this vantage point, he and his writings are more alive, more aware of the limitations of this (the external) world, more in tune with normal human weaknesses, more real than any normal mind could ever be, or ever even imagine.

This, the first of his many criminal's confessions, is not just a clinical baring of an interior soul, but a living reflection of how the soul is organized and lived from the inside out, and, more importantly, how it is incrementally corrupted as a result of normal societal rules. Yet, Genet does not claim a defense or an excuse for his societally produced criminal mind and behavior: Although he is the purest of a socially produced incorrigible, he revels in his station in life; he takes it and remakes it as his own. He refashions it so that he can own it fully: it is his choice to own it.
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