‘It is the life of vermin that I am going to describe…’ Part-autobiography, part-fiction, The Thief’s Journal (1949) is an account of Jean Genet’s impoverished travels across 1930s Europe, through Spain and Antwerp with bits of occasional border-hopping. The narrator is guilty of vagrancy, petty theft and prostitution, but his writing transforms such degradations into the gilded rites of an inverted moral code, with Genet as its most devout adherent. Betrayal becomes worship; delinquency, heroism.
Appropriating the language of the Church, Genet creates a homily to a trinity of his own making – homosexuality, theft and betrayal. The Thief’s Journal was hailed by Jean-Paul Sartre, its author’s most ebullient admirer, as ‘the most beautiful book that Genet has written’. ‘Genet has dramatized the story of his own life with a power and vision which take the breath away.’ New York Post
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