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200 × 130 × 11 mm
160 pages
28 illustrations
01 Sep 2004
Critical Lives

Jean Genet Stephen Barber

With an introduction by Edmund White.

This new concise biography and critical work cuts directly to the essence of Genet’s life, a life of extraordinary spectacle that was always profoundly entangled with his work. Stephen Barber emphasises those elements that made his life particularly inspirational in the 1960s and which continue to make it vital for readers today. Genet’s work is a distillation of preoccupations and reinventions of crucial matters - sex, desire, death and revolution - all of which became mediated in the form of his own travels, imprisonments, sexual and emotional relationships, political engagements and protests.

The book focuses directly on moments in Genet's life in which those preoccupations are vividly projected for the reader. Genet’s novels, theatre works and film projects have been hugely influential for a vast array of writers, film-makers, choreographers and theatre directors, especially at moments of social crisis. Genet has also been an ambivalent icon for the gay movement, for transvestite cultures and for creative and revolutionary individuals internationally.This book will appeal to a wide range of readers: those engaged with sexual, gender, political and revolutionary issues, all of which are illuminated by Genet’s life and work. It will also appeal to extensive readerships of students, of history, literature, theatre, film and visual media.

‘Barber has an elegant prose style, elliptical and engaging in about equal measure, and this, together with some judicious quotation from Genet’s own writings, makes for a provocative and informative critical biography . . . Barber performs what should be the duty of every literary biographer: he leads you back to Genet’s writing, and makes you wonder once more about the man who made it.’ — The Compulsive Reader

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Stephen Barber is Professor in the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture at Kingston University, Surrey. His books include Fragments of the European City (Reaktion, 1995), Projected Cities: Cinema and Urban Space (Reaktion, 2000), Tokyo Vertigo (2001), Extreme Europe (2001), The Art of Destruction: The Films of the Vienna Action Group (2004), Jean Genet (Reaktion, 2005), Abandoned Images: Film and Film's End (2011) and Performance Projections (2014). The Times has praised his work as ‘brilliant and profound’.

Introduction by Edmund White
1. Jack's Hotel
2. Jean Genet, the Bastard
3. The Criminal Child
4. The Mettray Colony
5. Crossings of Europe
6. Genet's Prisons
7. Our Lady of the Flowers
8. Miracle of the Rose
9. Genet in Occupied Paris
10. Jean Cocteau: Flaming Creature
11. Funeral Rites
12. Genet in Liberated Paris
13. Querelle of Brest
14. Genet's Hotel Rooms
15. The Thief's Journal
16. Lucien, Java, Decimo
17. Nico Papatakis and Genet
18. Un Chant d'Amour
19. The Penal Colony
20. Genet's Film Projects
21. The Cock and the Anus
22. The Screens
23. Unrest in the Theatre
24. Genet's Fragments
25. Rembrandt and the Wound
26. Giacometti
27. The Tightrope-Walker
28. Death, Suicide, Silence
29. Paule Thévenin and Genet
30. Genet in Japan
31. Genet and the Destruction of America
32. The Palestinians: Love and Death
33. The Brutal Gesture
34. A Loving Captive
35. Larache and London
36. Pages Torn from the Book of Genet
Photo Acknowledgements