tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE's Reviews > Querelle of Brest

Querelle of Brest by Jean Genet
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's review
Dec 25, 08

bookshelves: crime, literature
Read in December, 2008

Well.. After 33 yrs or so of reading Genet.. I reckon he just doesn't do it for me anymore. The things that I probably found energizing when I 1st started reading his bks, the criminal philosophizing, is mostly tedious to me now. &.. the cocks.. oh am I sick of the cocks.. Do we really exist in a society where people can think of little else other than cock size? How boring. Big cocks & little minds.

I saw the Fassbinder film based on this bk when it came out, around 1982. Id' already seen other Fassbinder films. I was interested in him as a major German filmmaker. I didn't like his "Querelle" at all. I remember it as being highly stylized in a theatrical way that was a total turn-off for my more experimental tastes. In fact, truth be told, I've never liked Fassbinder much ANYWAY. Too depressing - even his comedies are just grim reminders of how base & repulsive most people are to me.

At 1st, when I started reading "Querelle of Brest", I was reminded, once again, of what a WRITER Genet is, of how carefully he puts his words together, of how 'poetically' (as so many others wd have it) he tells his tale of this murderous sailor. Above all, over & above being gay, over & above being a criminal, Genet was a WRITER. It struck me that I've never run across Genet being referred to as a "crime fiction writer". He's too 'flowery', too philosophical. But, in a sense, he cd be compared to Patricia Highsmith. Querelle cd be compared to her character Mr. Ripley. Both Genet & Highsmith give more psychology than most.

When I started reading "Querelle.." I thought I was finishing reading the last of Genet, the one last bk of his I hadn't read - getting closure. Then I saw that he has a play I haven't read: "Splendid's". GROAN. I'm somewhat of an obssessive-compulsive, a completist. After reading "Querelle" will I actually read another bk by Genet? Not anytime soon..

In the end I'd say "Querelle.." was 'interesting', well-written.. but I probably didn't really like it. I found it so tedious so quickly that I kept putting off reading it but, OC that I am, I forced myself to read the whole thing. But, as w/ my reactions to Fassbinder's films, I just found myself sickened by the characters & not really that impressed by Genet's religious hard-on for this form of male 'culture'. I'm the enemy of the mindless mental traps that these characters wallow in.

After I finished the bk, I watched the Fassbinder film again to cap off the experience. I think I hated it even more this time than I did when I 1st saw it. As I recall, "Querelle" was Fassbinder's last film. It was different from the earlier ones - more theatrical, less 'realistic': theatrical lighting, melodramatic music, narration, intertitles, obvious sets instead of locations, 'unrealistic' intellectual monologues in the mouths of assholes - that sort of thing. &, yet, I understood in 1982, & I still understand now, Fassbinder's treatment: it's (mostly) faithful to the bk, it's faithful to what sets Genet apart from most writers who might approach his subjects. Still, I hated it. It was so tedious, I kept being tempted to fast-forward thru it. I stopped it halfway thru & took a short nap. It was practically unbearable.. but I knew I'd be writing this & wanted the film fresh in my mind.

Fassbinder did change a few parts. He has Querelle dress Gil as Querrelle's brother Robert when he sends him out to rob Lieutenant Seblon. That was an interesting touch, it tied the plot even tighter. I wonder what Genet thought about that? He was still alive when the film came out.

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