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The Thief's Journal

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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 vagabond, traveling through Spain and Antwerp, occasionally border hopping across to the rest of Europe, always trying to stay one step ahead of the authorities.

268 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1949

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About the author

Jean Genet

129 books996 followers
Jean Genet was a French novelist, playwright, poet, essayist, and political activist. In his early life he was a vagabond and petty criminal, but he later became a writer and playwright. 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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5 stars
1,410 (34%)
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1,450 (35%)
3 stars
865 (21%)
2 stars
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1 star
58 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 288 reviews
Profile Image for Tosh.
Author 12 books610 followers
April 7, 2008
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 Genet - and it goes beyond the gay or straight world - it's just a great twilight world where these people live. If you haven't read 'The Thief's Journal, do so. It's a great adventure of sorts.
Profile Image for Steven Godin.
2,319 reviews2,192 followers
February 25, 2019
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 early Forties as he travelled around Europe.

We catch glimpses of Genet wandering through Barcelona, Antwerp, Gibraltar, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and their respective lock-ups. It's characters, apart from the main man himself are an allsorts bunch of those who specialize in beggary, buggery, and a mixture of crimes. The activities in which this Motley crew engage in includes thefts, prostitution, drug running, pimping, and dealing counterfeit money. There is love, there is disloyalty and back-stabbing, and there is prison. And after a while things get repetitive, albeit in a different location. However, Genet's writing is difficult to turn away from at times. He simply leaves nothing on the table, and writes from the head, the heart, the guts, and the ejaculatory duct. Sometimes I felt like wanting to go take a hot shower, but that just shows the powerful effect that literature can have on the reader.

This is a work written largely as a work of self-examination, self-justification, and self-creation. Infused with the narrative episodes of the book are long passages of meditation; sometimes these passages take the form of lyrical effusion, sometimes of erotic reverie; sometimes they are disquisitions on the moral and metaphysical themes running throughout the book. Although It was penned in a beautiful and poetic prose, and offers a philosophical viewpoint that not many would dare to commit to, the narrative does get broken up too often, and feels scattered as Genet shifts topics, before cutting back in where he left off before.

Flashes of brilliance here and there, but also much frustration when summing-up. Others I know claim he was a much better dramatist than he was a novelist, but I will need to read more of him before drawing up my own conclusions.
Profile Image for Sophie.
660 reviews
February 18, 2018
Το ανώτερο και όχι το κατώτερο μυαλό υπάρχει κίνδυνος να σκανδαλιστεί από το ύφος αυτού του βιβλίου. Δεν επιδιώκω το σκάνδαλο. Βάζω σε μια τάξη αυτές τις σημειώσεις για να τις βρουν ορισμένοι νεαροί. Θα προτιμούσα να τις θεωρήσουν παρακαταθήκη μιας ασκητικής από τις δύσκολες. Χαρίζει μια απειρία οδυνηρή που εγώ ακόμα δεν την έχω ολοκληρώσει. Τι σημασία έχει ότι ξεκίνησε σαν μυθιστορηματική ονειροπόληση, αφού εγώ την επεξεργάζομαι με την ίδια αυστηρότητα που θα έβαζα για να λύσω ένα μαθηματικό πρόβλημα; Τι σημασία έχει ότι το ξεκίνημά της ήταν αυτό που ήταν, αφού εγώ αντλώ απ’ αυτήν τα υλικά που απαιτούνται για να πλαστεί ένα έργο τέχνης ή για να πραγματωθεί μια ηθική τελείωση (ίσως για να εξουδετερωθούν αυτά τα υλικά, για να καταργηθούν), τελείωση που βρίσκεται πολύ κοντά στην αγιότητα, που για μένα εξακολουθεί να είναι η πιο ωραία λέξη της ανθρώπινης λαλιάς;

Η γραφή του Genet έχει μια επιθετικότητα που κόβει την ανάσα, ένα λαχανιασμένο ρυθμό, την αίσθηση μιας αντεστραμμένης αγιότητας. Το αίσθημα της καταστροφής, ερωτικής και προσωπικής, είναι διάχυτο αντίστοιχα με εκείνο του γενικού αδιεξόδου, ενώ ταυτόχρονα αποκαλύπτεται η κατάσταση του σύγχρονου ανθρώπου, του αρνητικού σε όλα κι εξεγερμένου, του εκτός εαυτού. Ο Sartre είναι εκείνος που παρατηρεί πως κατά την αναζήτηση και την επιθυμία του Κακού για το Κακό, ο Genet έχει εγκλειστεί σε ένα αδιέξοδο, δονείται από αντιφάσεις, αν κι επιδιώκει την Ανέφικτη Μηδαμινότητα, διεκδικεί το είναι για την ύπαρξή του.
Επιθυμώ για μια στιγμή να ρίξω μια διαπεραστική ματιά σ’ αυτό που είναι πραγματικά η κορυφαία ευτυχία που νιώθουμε όταν είμαστε βουτηγμένοι στην απελπισία, όταν δηλαδή είμαστε μόνοι αντιμέτωπο με τον αιφνίδιο χαμό μας, όταν παρακολουθούμε την ανεπανόρθωτη καταστροφή του έργου μας και του εαυτού μας.
Σύμφωνα με τον Georges Bataille, το έργο του Jean Genet έχει ως στόχο του την αναζήτηση του κακού και στη διεκδίκηση του κακού είναι που βρίσκεται η αξιοπρέπεια του εξεγερμένου υποκειμένου, καθώς για τον συγγραφέα η αθλιότητα δεν εντοπίζεται στην κοινωνία αλλά στον ίδιο, γιατί ο ελεεινός χαρακτήρας της κοινωνίας έρχεται ως αποτέλεσμα ανθρώπων επιφανειακά διεφθαρμένων.
[…]δηλαδή η ζωή μου πρέπει να είναι ένα συναξάρι, που θα πει να διαβάζεται, κι όταν κάποιος τη διαβάζει, να ζωντανεύει μέσα του μια καινούρια συγκίνηση που την ονομάζω ποίηση. Εγώ πια δεν είμαι τίποτα, ένα πρόσχημα μόνο.
Συγχρόνως στον Genet υπάρχει μια θεμελιακή κλίση προς την αγιοσύνη, ζήτημα που σημειώνεται και στον τίτλο που δίνει ο Sartre στο κείμενό του: Saint Genet. Η αγιοσύνη του είναι η αγιοσύνη ενός εξαθλιωμένου ανθρώπου που χαίρεται να προκαλεί το χλευασμό, είναι αυτεξούσιος μόνο μέσα στο Κακό. Σύμφωνα με τον Sartre, ο Genet αγαπά την προδοσία, βλέπει στην προδοσία τον καλύτερο και χειρότερο εαυτό του.
Αγιότητα ονομάζω όχι μια κατάσταση αλλά τον ηθικό αγώνα που κάνω για να φτάσω σ’ αυτήν. Πρόκειται για το νοητό σημείο μιας ηθικής, για το οποίο δεν μπορώ να μιλήσω επειδή δεν το διακρίνω με την όραση. Όταν το πλησιάζω, αυτό απομακρύνεται. Το ποθώ και το φοβάμαι. Ο αγώνας αυτός ίσως δίνει την εντύπωση πως είναι ηλίθιος. Αν και οδυνηρός, είναι γεμάτος χαρά. Είναι παλαβιάρης. Σαν ζουρλός, μεταμορφώνεται σε μια Καρολίνα που ‘χει σηκώσει τα φουστάνια της και ξεφωνίζει από ευτυχία.
Profile Image for Emily.
694 reviews2,003 followers
Shelved as 'to-read-maybe'
December 11, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Inderjit Sanghera.
450 reviews85 followers
February 10, 2017
'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 art;

"I refused to live for any other end than the one which I found to contain the first misfortune: that my life must be a legend, in other words legible, and must give birth to a certain new emotions which I call poetry. I am no longer anything, only a pretext"
Genet therefore ends up becoming a symbol, a blunt instrument to weave the untold stories of the men who Genet met and loved during his perambulations around Europe, but at the same time art is able to give meaning to his ideas and life. Indeed the beauty of Genet's style saves the novel from the inspidity of the subject matter, transforms the violence of the world around him into something beautiful and eternal:

"The purple of sunsets, according to physicists, is the result of a greater thickness of air which is cross only by short waves. At mid-day, when nothing is happening in the sky, and apparition of this kind would disturb us less; the wonder is that is occurs in the evening, at the most poignant time of the day, when the sun sets, when it disappears to pursue some mysterious destiny, where perhaps it dies. The physical phenomenon that fills the sky with such pomp is possible only at the moment that most exalts the imagination; at the setting of the most brilliant of heavenly bodies."

Genet has now political or social axe to grind in 'The Thief's Journal', his sole goal is to render the world of deprivation he involved himself in into something ever-lasting, something ethereal and touching. It is not my favourite Genet, but it represents what is probably the purest essence of his life and art.

Profile Image for MJ Beauchamp.
52 reviews36 followers
April 19, 2019
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 crime and passion is captured in The Thief's Journal, a story of going down the rabbit hole, of choices and searches, and of what it means to be attracted to the darkness... Where seeing beauty in the unconventional, the underworld, and letting yourself - or part of yourself - take pleasure in the unknown is source of light, and true awakening. For in pain there is also liberation...

"If I cannot have the most brilliant destiny, I want the most wretched, not for the purpose of a sterile solitude, but in order to achieve something new with such rare matter."
Profile Image for Έλσα.
478 reviews94 followers
March 23, 2022
«Το ημερολόγιο ενός ��λέφτη»

Τι να γράψω για τον Ζενέ… ειλικρινά δεν έχω λόγια…

Είναι το δεύτερο βιβλίο του που τελειώνω κ έχω πάλι την ίδια θλίψη… νιώθω την ίδια συμπόνια για έναν άνθρωπο που δε γνωρίζω κ που θα ήθελα να κάτσω μαζί του σε ένα μπαρ κ να μου πει τις ιστορίες του.

Μια ζωή γεμάτη κυνηγητό και πάθη… ένας άνθρωπος εθισμένος στις κλοπές κ στον έρωτα… λάτρευε τους άντρες… βουτηγμένος στον βούρκο, όπως θα έλεγαν μερικοί, που όμως ο ίδιος το γούσταρε. Βίωνε έντονα την κάθε στιγμή, χωρίς να φοβάται, χωρίς να ντ��έπεται για τις επιλογές του. Δεν έκρυψε ποτέ τις σκέψεις του κ τα συναισθήματά του. Περιπλανήθηκε σε όλη την Ευρώπη, φυλακίστηκε, αγάπησε αλλά δεν αγαπήθηκε τόσο.

Δεξιοτέχνης στην κλεψιά, για ��α μπορέσει να ζήσει…κυκλοφορούσε άπλυτος, κουρελής, περνούσε τις ώρες του στα χαμαιτυπεία. Μια ζωή έντονη, με πολλές γνωριμίες, αλλά σίγουρα ο ίδιος στο τέλος ήταν μόνος…
106 reviews18 followers
January 20, 2011
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 Paris and London,' but what I got read like a long, self-exploratory and retrospective poem meets philosophical tract.

I understand this book is considered important, for (as the script on the back points out), Genet was "one of the first writers to openly avow his homosexuality and to see both homosexuality and criminality as legitimate literary subjects, creating in his works the hero-criminal and hero-homosexual."

For this I suppose we're indebted to Genet, and I suspect I might like his other less autobiographical works more. But as is often the case when a new literary trope is generated and expressed, it comes across as too enamoured with itself and too self-conscious. In short, I couldn't relate and engage with the tale because of the way it was told, and I wonder if something wasn't lost in translation to English as well.

In short, while it has some golden vignettes and some intriguing characters, the stuff that binds them together is too thin a soup for me to make a hearty recommendation of this.
Profile Image for Mariel.
667 reviews1,047 followers
March 23, 2011
"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. I'm still inarticulate but it doesn't feel like I'll get the answers to something if I can just put my finger on the pulse of what is beating within me about this. I have felt that bereftness of my "place" in society, as it is (whatever the hell that is). But I feel it was there in his world just the same as that of those who had two pennies to rub together. So it's really all kind of a lie, isn't it?

Everything that happened to Jean Genet... This is totally fucking obvious. I'm gonna say it anyway. "Yeah, Mariel?" Shut-up, Mariel. All of it happened as he was himself. His tenderness, disgust, shame... The meanings of all those words as they were... What the hell was the meaning, anyway? It wouldn't have been that way through the eyes of others. This is a story of his poetic soul. I know I wouldn't have had that. Did anyone else in his life? I wouldn't take his word... (Damnit. Why did it make that no more Fred Savage rule? I'd do that thing about Kevin Arnold's voice overs. "And we both knew that..." "How did you know they knew that? This girl doesn't look like she gives a shit!")

Our Lady of the Flowers kinda tortured me for what I don't have in me anymore. I have this feeling about 'Flowers' and 'Querelle' that they'll grow in my goose-bumps meter of story love and book relevance as I attach them to other things (life experience not needed. His experience was DEFINITELY enhanced by his romances). That's the thing, right? Maybe giving it yourself is a lot harder than doing it for someone else. I don't know. (Kevin? Does Paul still have that sex book he stole under his shirt? Let's consult it.)

I'm more moved by those painful times. His gift was the poetry. But I felt moved out of "You say" and into looking out of perspectives of (yup, surroundings of beauty and romance) into more than what he was trying to convince himself of. That he chose to be gay to stick it to the man? Lack of "taste"? Hard edges? Softness?

I'm repeating myself all of the time on goodreads. I feel like John Frusciante with his hundreds of songs about regret (I'd listen to them all)... Timelessness. Genet wanted to be all things to all men. The father, preacher, teacher, put your tiny hand in mine. Like moving without stopping. Who would WANT to open their eyes in that life?

It was beautiful when there was no other choice. Like a broken heart. This might grow in my goosebump stable of hos too, if I can forget the lies. I'm interested in this kind of immortality of times that feel like they are gonna be forever. And grief.

"Erotic play discloses a nameless world which is revealed by the nocturnal language of lovers. Such language is not written down. It is whispered into the ear at night in a hoarse voice. At dawn it is forgotten."

"Later on , when, without refusing to get excited about a handsome boy, I applied the same detachment, when I allowed myself to be aroused, and when, refusing the emotion the right to rule me, I examined it with the same lucidity, I realized what my love was; on the basis of this awareness I established relationships with the world; this was the birth of intelligence."
Profile Image for Rıdvan.
525 reviews77 followers
August 18, 2018
Oldukça ağır ve sanatsal bir kitap yine. Okuması da bir o kadar zor.
Sizi hiç aklınıza gelmeyecek yerlere götürüp oralarda bir temiz pataklayıp geri getiriyor yazar. Gündelik hayatta hiç tatmayacağınız duygular keşfediyorsunuz. Aşkın ve hüznün, dolayısıyla depresyonun en az rastlanır, en garip halleriyle karşılaşıyorsunuz.
Bir hırsız
Aynı zamanda bir eşcinsel
Aynı zamanda tam bir romantik
Karakterin adı yazarınkiyle aynı: Jean Genet.
Avrupa sathı boyunca ama daha çok İspanya’da geçirdiği günlere dair günlük bu.
Büyük aşkları oluyor bu süre boyunca Jean’ın.
Salvador, Lucien, Gary, Amber ve tabi ki Stilitano.
Hepsiylede defalarca yatıyor Jean.
Ama çok kırılgan.
Bir piç olarak dünyaya gelmiş ve annesi onu doğduğu gün terkedip gitmiş. O ise annesini hiç tanımadığı halde çok seviyor bundan gazla bahsetmek istemesede.
Aşkları ise bu paralelde genelde sığınacak bir liman oluyor onub icin. Daha dogrusu o hep siginacak bir liman ariyor hayati boyunca ve her buldugu limana da siginiyor.
Bu anlamda hoslandigi erkekler hep guclu kuvvetli heybetli kisiler oluyor. Ayni zamanda da sistem icerisinde bi sekilde aykiri durabilen bas kaldiran tipler.
Yani Jean annesinin biraktigi o kocaman boslugu zannedersem bu erkeklerle doldurmaya calisiyor. Aralarinda haydutta var (genelde zaten sokak serserileri) poliste var nazi de.
Ama bu sekilde o boslugu doldurmayi basarabiliyor mu derseniz, bence kesinlikle hayir.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Miglė.
Author 12 books366 followers
February 3, 2018
Labai poetiškas, savo amoralumu besididžiuojantis (ir ne be reikalo!) pasakojimas

1) Paprastai personažai, kurie vadinami moraliai ambivalentiškais, būna ne ką įdomesni negu viešųjų ryšių agentūros administruojama kokio politiko facebook anketa. Jų moralinis ambivalentiškumas pasireiškia pagal kelias formules: "vagiu iš turtuolių, kad išmaitinčiau savo vaikelius", "aš skriaudžiu žmones, bet tik objektyviai blogus žmones", "aš maištininkas ir dėjau ant visuomenės, kuri manimi nesirūpina, bet realiai visais vertybiniais klausimais sutarčiau su tavo giminėmis prie kalėdinio stalo".
O Genet personažas, bent jau taip, kaip pristatomas knygoje, TIKRAI moraliai ambivalentiškas. Mėgaujasi, kaip pats sako, nedorybėmis, bet ne dėl jų pačių, o dėl kažkokio estetinio kriterijaus, ypač jį žavi išdavystė.

"Kartą jis manęs paprašė "išduoti" jam savo bendrus. Sutikęs tai padaryti žinojau, jog mano meilė jam taps dar gilesnė, tačiau jums nevalia nieko daugiau sužinoti."

2) Kaip gražiai parašyta ir kaip poetiškai! Ėmiau irgi kažkokį švelnumą jausti tiems jo meilužiams nusikaltėliams, o paprasčiausios detalės irgi dailiai aprašytos:

"Paryčiui, grįžęs į kambarį anksčiau negu jis, laukiau. Tyloje girdėjau paslaptingai šiugždantį pageltusį laikraščio lapą, kuris atstojo išmuštą lango stiklą.
- Kaip subtilu, - tariau sau. <...>
- Šis laikraštis išspausdintas ispaniškai, - dar pamaniau. Tad visai normalu, kad nesuprantu jo keliamo garso."

"Myliu Žavą, nors jis niekšas, ištižėlis, kvailas ir bailus, jo manieros ir jausmai vulgarūs. <...> Dar paminėsiu Žavos fizinę sandarą, jo masyvų, niaurų kūną. <..> Žava žaižaruoja. Jo vandenys ir ugnys kaip tik ir yra ta ypatinga savybė, mano vadinama Žava, kurį myliu. Patikslinu: nemėgstu nei niekšybės, nei kvailumo, tad nemyliu Žavos už tai, kad toks yra, tačiau jų lydinys mane žavi."
Profile Image for Yigal Zur.
Author 10 books126 followers
February 8, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Nihan.
208 reviews120 followers
July 21, 2016
"Eğer derin bir yapıt, korkunç bir biçimde kendi içine batmış bir insanın haykırışıysa, insanların
bu yapıttan uzaklaşmaları hayırlıdır," demiş yazar. Bu biraz insanların kötü olanı görmemezlikten gelip, üç maymunu oynamasına benziyor. Bunun neresi hayırlıdır ve gerçekçi midir bilinmez ama bu kitabın sizin önyargılarınızı ve size öğretilen onca "iyi şey"i silkip atabileceği bir gerçek.

Çocukluğunu yetiştirme yurtlarında, gençliğini ise sokaklarda hırsızlık ve fahişelik yaparak geçirmiş bir adamın yaşadıklarına tanık oluyoruz. Bu kitap bir hesaplaşma değil bana göre. Yazar sadece olayları tüm berbatlıklarıyla ve o berbatlıkların içinde şaşırtıcı da olsa bulunabilen güzelliklerle anlatmış. En çok aşklarını anlatmış ki aşkları da bir o kadar aşağılıkmış aslında, o güzelliği aşağılık olanda bulmuş. O'na her ihanet ettiklerinde o daha çok aşık olmuş.

Ve tüm bunları bizim o minik beyaz çiçekler, pembe panjurlu evler hayal eden akıl almaz beynimizle alay ederek anlatmış. Yani kitabı okurken küçük düşen biri varsa o da okuyucunun ta kendisi oluyor.

Bu kitaba 5 yıldız vermek istemedim çünkü beğenilsin diye yazılan bir kitap olmadığını düşünüyorum. Yazar biz onu takdir edelim ya da hayran olalım diye anlatmıyor, aksine rahatsız etmek için anlatıyor. Bir de yazarların kendi ağızlarından anlattıkları hikayeleri pek sevemiyorum, düşüncelerine hiç ara vermeden okuyup katlanabildiğim birkaç yazar var.

Yeraltı edebiyatının kaba dilini de pek sevmiyorum. Çok haşır neşir olmadığım bir tür ama gerçekten farklı bir kitap okumak istiyorsanız tavsiye ederim.
Profile Image for Tocotin.
748 reviews108 followers
January 16, 2016
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 post factum, possibly when he was already in prison and reading books and going bonkers from boredom. Because hey, what can you do if you are uneducated, poor, and almost without any moral and other support? What to do with the most shitty cards you’ve been dealt at the beginning of your life? Yo go with the flow at first and sometimes to the last: steal, cheat, maybe murder, maybe prostitute yourself. Some people resist the misery and try their best to get out of the situation by any means available. Genet did this pretty late – when the opportunity presented itself and his writing started to draw attention, he draped himself in this black cape and won.

It shows that he’s intoxicated with his success and in love with his words. Some of this stuff is unreadable. But as I said, as a description – not the rationalization – of a life, it is very powerful.

And I loved the vision of a unicorn prancing in the wide field of wheat with birches in the background on the border between Czechoslovakia and Poland, because “only a unicorn would fit there”. Just imagine! A unicorn! Damn right!

PS. It's pretty hot.
Profile Image for Miceál.
370 reviews66 followers
July 1, 2021
Despite the fact I've been in a major reading slump lately and it took an embarrassingly long time for me to read this book, I really did enjoy it. I'll definitely have to re-read it once I'm in a better reading space, but considering the fact that it managed to hold my attention no matter how spaced out I was, I can say it's an impressive book.

It's not like anything I've ever read before, and it's honestly beautifully written. I did find that the writing style was a little difficult to follow at some points, and it's definitely not a linear autobiography kind of thing. It's more of a personal philosophy illuminated by incidents both directly from or drawn from the author's life, which does sound a little dull but somehow manages to be anything but. There are some really interesting ideas in here, and some stunning prose.

I'll definitely be going back to this one at a later date, and I'm pretty sure it'll probably become a five-star read when I do.
Profile Image for Conor Ahern.
655 reviews187 followers
March 16, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Петър Панчев.
791 reviews122 followers
October 19, 2015
Да възвеличаеш позора, да откриеш естественото
Цялото ревю тук: http://knijenpetar.blogspot.bg/2015/1...

Никак, ама никак не съжалявам, че си причиних тази книга. Сякаш бях прелюбодеец, изтръгнал сърце и душа от тялото си, поканен на поход към низостта и извращението, но в свят на благочестие и преданост, какъвто Жан Жьоне боготвори с някаква непосилна за хора в неговото положение радост. Изстисках максимално от чувството си за приличие, но не посмях да разкрася различно в ума си тази трагедия, да ѝ отнема от съвършенството, да я прерисувам по мой си начин. Не го пожелах, защото щях да отнема от тази книга всичко, което иска да каже на езика на поета и клетника Жьоне. Но не мога да не се възхитя на философията на този ранен вестител на своеобразната литературна оргия на битниците. Поет на улицата, мистификатор, преобръщащ реалността по наистина нетрадиционен начин; влечуго, което се провира из най-мръсните и миризливи катакомби, за да ги слави и обича.

„Дневник на крадеца“ („Колибри“, 2015, с превод на Росица Ташева) е една от най-поразяващите книги, които съм чел. Не мога да я сравня с нищо, а и не е желателно да го правя, защото не съм способен дори да я преосмисля подобаващо. Мога да я оценя с нула, но мога и да я поставя на пиедестал, без да се почувствам неловко. Тук не стои въпросът с разбирането или отричането, дали изобщо този текст е някакво постижение в литературата или какво да е изкуство под формата на текст, но влиянието му е голямо, голямо за четящия го. Ако кажа, че от този текст боли не само главата, но и душата, ще съм близо до истината. Да поставим и думичката „автофикция“, доста по-неразумната в случая „автобиография“ и третата, но не по значимост – „фантазия“. „Дневник на крадеца“ е поднесена като поетизирана ябълка, с инжектирана в нея бавно действаща отрова – за чувствителността, за приемствеността и за разбирането. Светът на Жьоне е ад, който той обича, възхищава му се и приема като даден му от природата. И както „жьоне“ означава жълтуга, така и писателят се идентифицира с цвете – посланик или техен крал. И това сякаш му е потребно, тъй като си изважда акт за раждане чак на двайсет и една годишна възраст.
(Продължава в блога: http://knijenpetar.blogspot.bg/2015/1...)
Profile Image for Makis Dionis.
461 reviews106 followers
May 3, 2022
Εχω πει ποσο αγαπώ τους παρανομους που δεν εχουν αλλη ομορφιά περα απο κείνη του κορμιου τους

Η προδοσία , η κλεψιά κ η ομοφυλοφιλία υμνούνται με κάθε τρόπο απο το Genet
Ο τρόπος αυθυπαρξίας, η διατήρηση του ελάχιστου ιχνους αξιοπρέπειας
Η απόλυτη ένδεια αλλα κ η κομψοτητα των αλητόβιων
Ηθική εξαθλίωση που οδηγεί σε θρασος αξιοθαύμαστο μεσα απο τα χούγια της οκνηρίας κ της χλιδής

Ο Genet μετράει την αποσταση που τον χωρίζει απο τους ανθρώπους
με την βαρύτητα των μέσων και την μεγαλοπρέπεια που χρησιμοποιει ο ποιητής για να τους πλησιάσει
Η αχρειότητα απελπίζει. Η απελπισια γινέται δύναμη αλλα κ το βασικό υλικό για την αυτοκαταργηση της,
αρκεί στο βάθος να κυριαρχεί η πραγματικη αγάπη για τους ανθρώπους
Profile Image for Andrés Cabrera.
345 reviews65 followers
December 8, 2020
"La cárcel brinda al preso el mismo sentimiento de seguridad que un palacio real al invitado de un rey. Son éstos los dos edificios construidos con mayor fe, los que dan mayor certeza de ser lo que son- que son lo que quisieron ser y siguen siéndolo-. La mampostería, los materiales, la arquitectura van de acuerdo con un sistema moral que hace que estas moradas sean indestructibles en tanto perdure la forma social cuyo símbolo son. La cárcel me envuelve en una perfecta garantía. Estoy seguro de que fue construida para mí, junto con el palacio de justicia, sus dependencias, su vestíbulo monumental. Todo allí me está destinado con la mayor formalidad. El rigor, los reglamentos, su inflexibilidad, su precisión proceden de la misma esencia que la corte regia, que la exquisita y tiránica cortesía de la que son objetos sus invitados".

Pocas veces se tiene el placer de leer algo tan hermoso y siniestro como el Diario del ladrón. En él, Genet invoca todos sus artilugios literarios para dotar de belleza y heroizar su vida como ladrón. Más allá del hurto, que viene siendo una mera función, el ladrón es aquel ser que se remueve en las antípodas del mundo; en el otro extremo de ese bienestar edulcorado que pretende vender cierta idea de legalidad. El ladrón, tal como el rey, habitan este mundo bajo el mismo peso; eso sí, sin sentir el mismo yugo. El primero es vapuleado mientras serpentea las calles en procura de su sustento y esa ascesis que Genet enuncia como abyección; mientras que, el segundo, se remueve sus túnicas en la otra cara de la luna, a la sombra del castillo y los banquetes. Ambos cenan de lo mismo, ambos son bufones de esta misma farsa que es el mundo y sus costumbres; sin embargo, ambos experimentan esta vida de forma radicalmente distinta.

Aquí, bajo el frenesí lírico de aquel que reconoce que su vida se ha volcado en ambos escenarios; ya sea como ladrón o escritor de renombre, Genet rememora esa forma de vida particular de aquel que adquiere su santidad a partir del camino de lo abyecto: porque, en últimas, el mundo está hecho de la misma sustancia y los sueños, sin más, no son más que esquirlas que se crepitan al fondo de los ceniceros. Cada ser humano es capaz de redimirse si es capaz de asumir su propia vida...de saberse humano y corroerse de aquellos vicios y virtudes que, por mano propia, cada quien decide sepultar sobre sí mismo. De hecho, tal como reconoce Genet, en esa diferencia maniquea entre buenos y malos se esconde en últimas la cobardía de apreciar el mundo sin su habitual velo de Maya. Al respecto, dice el francés:

"Yo respetaba a la policía. Puede matar. No a distancia, ni por procuración, sino por su propia mano. Sus crímenes, aun siendo producto de una orden, no dejan de pertenecer a una voluntad particular, individual, que implica, con su decisión, la responsabilidad del asesino. Al policía se le enseña a matar. Amo esas máquinas siniestras pero sonrientes destinadas al acto más difícil: el asesinato" .

Y no deseo hablar más: para no mancillar a aquel que sabe de lo que habla. Para no tomar la voz de aquel que ha sabido trasegar el mundo y no dejarse corromper por el oropel. ¡Inmenso, Jean Genet!
Profile Image for مرام الجبيل.
24 reviews15 followers
September 10, 2021
ليست يوميات ولكنه ضمير اللص الذي أراد چان چينيه أن يكتب عنه ، أراد أن يفسّر بها حياته التي تشعّ بالدناءة ، أن يؤكد وجوده عبر أجرأ صورة إجرامية ممكنة تقوده إلى العقوبة وتبررها .. التجربة الكثيفة وسط فوضى البذاءة هذه جعلته ناقماً على وضعه ، رافضاً العالم الذي رفضه ، متناغماً مع الحياة العبثية في الإصلاحيات والسجون ، في السرقات والإهانات والدعارة ، هناك حيث يقطف سلامه وزمالته ومواساته الأولى .
Profile Image for Mark.
Author 54 books66 followers
August 1, 2012
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 made a point of identifying poets with criminals, both, if serious about their craft, representing outlaw elements which society coexists with uneasily. It seems evident that a good deal of Delany's inspiration for this image was drawn from Genet, who makes a compelling case for an alternative moral dimension to the outlaw's life, codes, and responses. By the end of the narrative you see what we might define as ordinary morality as in a mirror, and not a flat one at that. Circumstance dictates self-image as much as anything and the luxury of making of yourself what you wish to be is not restricted to "lucky" people.

A difficult story at times, chronicling a life of poverty, borderline nihilism, and a struggle to find love where available and in ways some would find abhorrent, it is a rich journey through a layer of the world most of us know nothing about.
Profile Image for Cody.
506 reviews174 followers
December 27, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 2 books5 followers
August 30, 2010
Morality is overrated. If you're beauty is you, then context is only "lice" on the cake.
Profile Image for John Hatley.
1,165 reviews189 followers
June 2, 2016
A remarkable book, for the most part because it was written more than 65 years ago. It gives a glimpse into a strange and completely alien world.
Profile Image for Frank Keizer.
Author 5 books28 followers
February 6, 2023
'...en zo maakte ik kennis met het geluk van de dubbelzinnigheid, nog niet met de vreugde van het verraad, maar wel al de verraderlijke vermenging die mij fundamentele tegenstellingen zou doen loochenen.'
Profile Image for James.
373 reviews19 followers
September 10, 2014
I hear many voices in this thief's literary performance. Here is one: "I no longer know what I thought, but I remember that I offered all my woes to God. In my solitude remote from men, I came quite close to being all love, all devotion. . . Creating is not a somewhat frivolous game. The creator has committed himself to the fearful adventure of taking upon himself, to the very end, the perils risked by his creatures. We cannot suppose a creation that does not spring from love. How can a man place before himself something as strong as himself which he will have to scorn or hate? But the creator will then charge himself with the weight of his characters' sins. Jesus became a man. He expiated. Later, like God, after creating men, He delivered them from their sins: He was whipped, spat upon, mocked, nailed. That is the meaning of the expression: "He suffers in his flesh." Let us ignore the theologians. "Taking upon Himself the sins of the world" means exactly this: experiencing potentially and in their effects all sins; it means having subscribed to evil. Every creator must thus shoulder--the expression seems feeble--must make his own, to the point of knowing it to bo his substance, circulating in his arteries, the evil given by him, which his heroes choose freely. We wish to regard this as one of the many uses of the generous myth of Creation and Redemption. Though the creator grants his characters free will, he hopes, deep down in his heart, that they will choose Good. Every lover does likewise, hoping to be loved for his own sake." Hmm . . .
Profile Image for Ian.
17 reviews
December 13, 2007
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 ways. As such, I would be surprised if it weren't a favorite of Ted Haggard and Justice Clarence Thomas.

Jean-Paul Sartre wrote an immense book on the work of the author Jean Genet, explicating from it a literary expression of the existential hero. As such, I'm sure that Genet's work must be read numerous times to fully grasp its layers of artistic vision, beatific prose, and philosophical meanderings.

This book was assigned to me in an undergraduate class on modern novels many years ago. We read the like of Bret Easton Ellis, Angela Carter, and Dennis Cooper (the last of which was a bit unsettling). I only read it once, many years ago, before I was aware of the material that was assigned in class. However, I found that it is probably one of the best I've ever read. It is unorthodox and more challenging than most novels, but well worth the effort. I especially recommend it for prudes and homophobes.
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