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The Thief's Journal

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  3,166 ratings  ·  204 reviews
The Thief's Journal is perhaps Jean Genet's most authentically autobiographical novel, personifying his quest for spiritual glory through the pursuit of evil. Writing in the intensely lyrical prose style that is his trademark, the man, Jean Cocteau, dubbed France's "Black Prince of Letters" here reconstructs his early adult years - time he spent as a petty criminal and ...more
Paperback, 268 pages
Published February 2nd 1994 by Grove Press (first published 1949)
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Richard Average Genet answers that question when he says " my excitement is the oscillation from one to the other". Genet is a true homosexual, not merely the…moreGenet answers that question when he says " my excitement is the oscillation from one to the other". Genet is a true homosexual, not merely the hedonist, libertine or debauchee who pursues pleasure for its own sake. His quest, both erotic and philosophical, is to bring to light the opposites which exist sometimes like a coiled spring within. When he succeeds, whether through language or action, he is the wonder-struck witness reveling in awe and delight at the volcano I will call mortal man. In the beginning he says " I was hot for crime." Allowing a modicum of humor one might also say that 'he was hot for irony'. (less)

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Nov 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Without a doubt one in a proper life needs to be obsessed with the early Kinks, a love of Howlin' Wolf, read the entire works of Oscar Wilde, to know that there is a big difference between Brian Jones era Rolling Stones to the current Ron Wood years, the love of Charles Shaw brand of wine, and this novel by Jean Genet.

It's a must for every young man and woman to read as a teenager. For old men like me it brings a tear to my eye. And why is it that?

There is something so incredibly romantic about
Steven Godin
Feb 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, france
Reminiscent of the work of Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Henry Miller, Genet's autobiographical novel which was first published at the mid-point of his career in 1948, stands somewhere between his earlier works of fiction and his later works of drama. It is a long (too long for me) meditation on betrayal, thievery and homosexuality, of which Genet doesn't hold back on, explicitly speaking. For the most part, The Thief's Journal is a fragmented account of Genet’s time spent during the Thirties and ...more
Inderjit Sanghera
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
'The Thief's Journey' is the journey into the strange and unique mind of Jean Genete; itinerant tramp and erstwhile novelist, the poetry of his prose beautifies the banality and brutality of its subject, of theft, violence, betrayal and murder, the depraved world of thieves, pimps and would-be murderers which Genete feels drawn to and is able to find beauty in-or rather, Genet is able to transmute his life and ideas, which upend and contradict normal concepts of herosim, love and beauty, via his ...more
Dec 11, 2015 marked it as to-read-maybe
When Fred Sonic Smith told Patti Smith he would take her anywhere in the world, she chose the prison in French Guiana that Genet regretted he was never sent to. Reading Genet is the first of many vain efforts to be half as interesting as Patti Smith.
Jan 20, 2011 rated it did not like it
I started out enthusiastic, enticed, and indeed won over by Jean Genet's prose. But the prose only gets more convoluted, and without a clear narrative to boulster it, this collapses under my expectations and hopes for it. I wonder if to read it again in the future would be to take more from it, but I find myself looking forward to the end of it and generally disappointed by my reading. I wanted the nitty-gritty details of the criminal life with the autobiographical clarity of 'Down and Out in ...more
MJ Beauchamp
Every so often I come across these books, classics, I should have read already long ago... The Thief's Journal, Jean Genet's iconic and groundbreaking novel, is one them. This latest edition features a new introduction by Patti Smith - the reason I finally got around to reading it, and a perfect complement to the author's pioneering genius.

Genet found love, poetry and lyricism in prison, drawing pride, triumph and reason for glory in the admittance and acceptance of his weaknesses. His life of
Dec 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: I am hated for loving
Recommended to Mariel by: pretty little angel
"I dared not even notice the beauty of this part of the world- unless it were to look for the secret of this beauty, the imposture behind it, of which one will be a victim if he trusts it. By refusing it, I discovered poetry."

I'm saddened (embarrassed, too) by my two previous attempts to "review" Jean Genet. I don't feel as finger twisted (hah! My hands will never move in harmony with my thoughts) as those other times. So I don't have his poetry. The Thief's Journal spoke to me. Not urgently.
Yigal Zur
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
i took it one time as a present to a well known thief in jail. what he hated was the liberty that Genet have in his mind. which is to say what a unique writer came from this thief who can teach us a lot about humanity.
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: men-writers
This is like meeting an old, irritating, but oddly captivating acquaintance. I read this book when I was still in junior high, and remembered it quite vividly for all those years.

The narrative and descriptive parts of the book are interesting and intense. The philosophy, not so much. First, it’s already dated, with its concept of homosexuality as the act of defiance of the rules of society, and as the embracing of sin and darkness.

And then, it’s quite obvious that Genet invented that philosophy
Conor Ahern
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Might be sacrilege to say it, but Genet is sort of a one-trick pony. He trades on the wholesome, just as the physically imposing and masculine depredate on him. He has a lot of sex and cadges drinks, viatica, and places to stay. All of this is done in a disorientatingly fluid manner.

Not enough variety or substance for me to feel invested in the plot, but I'm glad I gave him two shots.
Aug 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Fictionalized autobiography of Jean Genet's career as a petty thief in the 1930s, part of a series of works that self-analyze Genet's life and his impressions of who he is/was and what he did to meet the exigent requirements of survival and find "meaning" in living as an outlaw. The life depicted is strikingly at odds with the startlingly lucid and vibrant prose, calling into question all assumptions generally made about those we normally judge as ignominious.

Samuel R. Delany has in his works
Dec 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As much as I love Genet’s work, there’s simply too much sex herein for this old Catholic boy. Body bits are immaterial; I’d feel the same if it were women. Or dogs. Or robots.

But his sentences do sing, and I gladly clap along. Whatever your opinion of Genet may be, one thing is undeniable: motherfucker could write. And so I keep coming...back.
Dec 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Pope Benedict XVI
Shelves: literature
The Thief's Journal is, in a superficial way, a story of darkness, drudgery, and the appreciation of beauty that underlies the filth of society, told by a traveling thief and vagrant whose shadowy encounters would put Senator Larry Craig to shame. On a different level, it is an inversion of the morals and structures of Western society by which the scoundrels, pimps, homosexuals, murderers, trannies, and litterbugs of Europe are transformed into saints who reject the modern order and its boring ...more
Aug 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
There's basically one theme in this book: young Genet's quest to invent a new morality ennobling homosexuality, theft and treason; making them "the holy trinity", the highest virtues. After 200 some odd pages this theme gets a bit old but the book is still a pleasure to read for it's luxuriously depraved and poetic prose.
Genet brings his criminal lovers to life with character portraits full of religious adoration, bringing to mind Henry Miller on one of his manic sprees. It's a fascinating cast
Oct 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Jean Genet's absorbing work of literary autobiography traverses the boundaries of genre with stunning ingenuity and imagination. This work is in some ways similar to Capote's use of the so-called "non-fiction novel," in that it recalls apparently true events through the lens of fiction. This is the reflection of a petty thief, and vagabond. Genet is a young man wandering Europe and immersing himself in a world of crime and depravity. He fuses his homosexuality with nefarious hooliganism to play ...more
Robert Wilson
Apr 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Years ago when I was a younger man I read this book because I liked what a friend of mine said. "Read this book and it will f*ck up your life." Frankly Genet finds the beauty in evil, poverty, illness (both mental and physical) and the emptiness in life.

It's not an easy read, and at times shocking. My friend was right. This is a book of great importance because it will "f*ck your life" by making you challenge your beliefs on what is "right" and what is "wrong."

Genet's whores, thieves, murders
Samelu   Binumcole
Being an autobiography, this book is not really loaded with
tension. It is however loaded with lyricism and an approach
to aesthetics which, if they can be applied to a life of thievery,
prostitution, betrayal, lice, burglary, captivity and innumerable
humiliations: then whatever life you are living probably is not
so bad after all. For me, this book was: part prime time existential
storytelling, part colorful romanticism, and slightly less captivating
then I had imagined it would be. I dived
Tim Edison
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: french
Exquisite but understated. Jean Genet is a masterful writer and this is a masterpiece. He renders his characters with such penetrating insight that they appear almost translucent. Genet was fearless, writing about crime and homosexuality in an age of unflinching, unquestioned morality. He embraced his destitution and found a holiness-a saintliness- in his pain of being abandoned at birth and left to a life of homelessness and crime.

The more I write, the less I am able to define the beauty of
Nov 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Genet's masterpiece. Combined with Sarte's "Saint Genet", this book changed the way I understand art and how it works. This books is important for anyone who wants to understand evil and it's relationship to creativity, as well as the moral ambiguity of beauty.

Genet's writing is very dense and forces you into abstraction, I found myself rereading very often. It's not an immediately accessible book and I found it philosophically complex, but incredibly rewarding. I would recommend that anyone
Oct 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Easily the gayest book I've ever read, and that's after the first 20 pages. Set this aside while Genet easily manipulates your stream of consciousness; one minute he's musing on the trials of life and the next you're in close proximity to a depiction of Nirvana-Hell through the eyes of a beggar. He identifies with everybody he runs into, playing on your own ego the whole time. This one's worth a read.
May 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a marvelous piece of writing. The subject matter may defer honest appraisal, it may embarrass readers to admit that they actually read this wicked book, but Genet is a master of language who should never be ignored.
Oct 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Just reread this for a class I am teaching. It is a wild fun introspective ride. It is almost an Ur-text on criminality. Overall, it is fun and beautiful.
Aug 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Morality is overrated. If you're beauty is you, then context is only "lice" on the cake.
Jonathan yates
Jul 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
It reminds of Celine as written by a really gay man
i really enjoyed it, very darkside of humanity book
Mar 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Literary porn pulp trash? Yes, please. Playful prose and lurid language.
Eurgh. But done. And I do think it’ll make for an interesting discussion topic in class.
Nov 13, 2018 added it
Worth a read. Although I read it many years ago, there are still a couple of vivid stills in my head. It is mentioned in Siri Hustvedt's Woman looking at men looking at women in her chapter on pornography, due to explicit passages, of which I have no recollection.
Oct 21, 2018 added it
Not"I've finished this book", but "I'm done with this book". At one time, it may have been relevatory writing, candid about homosexuality and unrestrained lives of those on the gritty edge of society. Now, it holds less interest. It is not current. It has been overshadowed by works exploring the same lifestyles in more contemporary, understandable ( politically and sociologically) settings.
Genet writes at times of philosophical or existential elements of his life and relationships in this
Dec 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Jean Genet, on his birthday December 19
"A man must dream a long time in order to act with grandeur, and dreaming is nursed in darkness" – Jean Genet
Among the great iconoclasts and poets of liberation, Jean Genet became himself a figure of the Rebel so anointed by Sartre; but also he is a Saint and mystic whose fictionalized autobiographies are filled with Catholic, Gnostic, and Classical symbolism and themes, Jungian archetypes, and references to Romantic Idealism.
As did Keats, he chronicles
David Rodolfo Areyzaga Santana
In the quest for elevating evil and deviant behavior to a nearly holy status is a remarkably difficult achievement. When I think of novels like American Psycho or a Clockwork Orange, I see evil as an exercise of vanity and anger behind a wicked grin and big eyes that observe the world for what it is, and that's no small feat. However, Jean Genet takes a different route and looks at moments of life and experience as rituals which he reinterprets within the structure of a memoir and gives new ...more
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Jean Genet (1910-1986), poet, novelist, playwright, and political essayist, was one of the most significant French writers of the twentieth century. His work, much of it considered scandalous when it first appeared, is now placed among the classics of modern literature and has been translated and performed throughout the world.
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