Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Balcony” as Want to Read:
The Balcony
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Balcony

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  2,162 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
Book jacket/back: The setting of Jean Genet's celebrated play is a brothel that caters to refined sensibilities and peculiar tastes. Here men from all walks of life don the garb of their fantasies and act them out: a man from the gas company wears the robe and mitre of a bishop; another customer becomes a flagellant judge, and still another a victorious general, while a ba ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published January 21st 1994 by Grove Press (first published 1956)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Balcony, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Balcony

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Mar 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Would it perturb you to see things as they are? To gaze at the world tranquilly and accept responsibility for your gaze, whatever it might see?

I found this less Brecht and more Passolini. Revolution became chic at some point. This is about assuming roles in tumultuous times. I found the endearing aspect to be the role of the siren or chanteuse.

The pimp has a grin, never a smile

Much as Steven Godin asserted on GR today I think the experience would have been enhanced by viewing this staged. I don
Feb 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is a work of dramatic genius. Genet poses for us the question, "What is the nature of virtue and its relationship with power?" In his setting, he chooses a brothel, with the actors in the brothel trapped in a never-ending cycle of violent fiction that mirrors the events of the revolution happening outside the brothel walls.

The are great, witty lines such as "The pimp has a grin, never a smile." There are great, beautiful lines such as "It's the hour when night breaks away from the day,
Dec 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Hmm . . . I really like what Genet was trying to do here, but I'm not sure that it is pulled off as well as it could have been. This play is very much postmodern, and in that sense it reminded me a lot of Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow in terms of style and themes. Like Genet (and also like the Frankfurt School sociologists, with their emphasis on Freud's death instinct/Eros v. Thanatos and the Marquis de Sade, with whom Genet is often compared), Pynchon also equated the appetite for power with sad ...more
David Stephens
Jan 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: drama
Jean Genet's controversial play The Balcony takes place within a "house of illusions" where men dress up as bishops, generals, judges, and even the indigent to play out bizarre sexual fantasies while a revolution takes place throughout the surrounding city. It retains the nonspecific time and location of other absurdist plays but adds a meta-theatrical flamboyance. It's as if Genet tossed sex, religion, Marxism, psychoanalysis, reality, and illusion in a blender together and this is the concocti ...more
Czarny Pies
May 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Jean Genet
Recommended to Czarny by: Mr. Lavoie, the lit teacher
Shelves: french-lit
The action of this play takes place inside a brothel while a revolution goes on outside. The brothel caters to fancies. The johns can choose to dress as whatever power figure they choose to be. The police chief in the course of the play watches clients dress as a judge, a bishop and a general. Finally, the insurrection is crushed and the leader of the rebels enters the brothel asking to dress up as a police chief. "At last" says the police chief, "they have seen the truth."

I think Genet has writ
Jun 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: film-related
Mind-blowing. Everyone should at least be aware of what Genet accomplished here. He was way ahead of his time.
Jun 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, plays
This is one of the most puzzling plays I’ve read. At one level it is quite obvious with clear symbols of different parts of the state and the interplay of illusion with reality. On another level however, the interactions between these aspects gets murky and pivotal parts of the play are ambiguous in its implications. The result is a play that really makes you think and question whether you understood what you thought you understood. After finding nothing interesting in Genet’s Funeral Rites I wa ...more
Jeffrey Round
The Balcony by Jean Genet (revised edition, trans. by Bernard Frechtman) (Grove Press 1966)

Considered by many to be Genet's dramatic masterwork, the play features his trademark sleight-of-hand, where characters transform into other characters: a “house of pleasure” caters to the theatrically-inspired whims of its customers while the city is under siege by rebel forces. When rumours surface that the real leaders are dead, the brothel's clients embody their acquired roles to become a judge, a bish
This play has much in common with the Artaudian "Theatre of Cruelty" concepts, with its ritualistic, highly staged portrayals of violent sexuality serving to illuminate the larger struggles of the world as a whole. This heightened awareness of the lies of theatricality - the prostitutes of the play are trapped in a life of performance, and their clients are sexually and emotionally satisfied with this; the war is fought with the aid of the Madam, Irma's performance skills; and, of course, the wa ...more
Jun 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays, classics
I lost count of how many times I have read this play, furthermore I have watched it being rehearsed over and over and performed three times, still I am quite sure I do not understand what is going on.
I can't tell reality from fantasy, I don't understand who has power and who's faking, or even if anyone actually has power or is faking. Every time I read it, there's something new to it, but I feel like I haven't read it enough times, it still puzzles me, I can't think straight.
This play is rich
Ahmed Hassan
May 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
هي مسرحية تجرى في مكان محدد وهو الماخور، وتحاكي ما يحدث أثناء الثورة الفرنسية من التناقضات التى تجرى في كواليس غامضة في أنظمة مليئة بالدسائس والمؤامرات، وما هي الوسائل التى تحاك لتصفية ثورة مثل هذه.
وأهم من تدور حولهم المسرحية هما : الأسقف، القاضي وقائد الشرطة الذين ظل ملازهم وهم السلطة وإقتناعهم انهم في مأمن من الثورة ورجالها ولا يقدر أحد على المساس بهم أو التقليل من شأنهم، ومع الوقت ينكشف الستار عن حقيقتهم وطريقة تفكيرهم...
Jun 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
The first half was fantastic in its depictions of kink & comedy, politics & philosophy, but the second half, especially the long scenes 7 & 9 (briefly interrupted by the half-page scene 8) were a bit of a slog and I found myself mostly lost in the dialogue. I'm not unhappy to have read it, but I might get more enjoyment out of it after reading about it some more.
Michael A.
Feb 12, 2018 rated it liked it
very interesting storyline (a revolution is taking place outside of a brothel, which is where the play is set). I feel as though there's some big allegory I'm not quite getting haha. But overall, it was an enjoyable read and I would like to see this acted out one day!
Mar 14, 2017 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Diana by: Teacher
Reading this was wasteful. Had to finish it by forcing myself. It was dreadful. I can't appreciate its relation to mimicry or political power. It has no substantial effect whatsoever..
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Best lines about popular rebellion ever written. The dialogue is as masterful as Shakespeare.
Karen Loder
May 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was far out man. I really liked the beginning and the ending had its moments but for much of the ending I was just like, eh? But this kind of worked in the play's favor since it's about the dissolution of reality and falsehood. Which is which? What is more true: the illusion or the reality? In the case of this play, illusion is more powerful than the people who play into them. The judge, the general, and the bishop, the men who inhabit these costumes must act as a judge, general, or bishop ...more
Jun 24, 2007 rated it liked it
Together with The Maids, The Balcony is one of Gene's masterpieces
محل وقوع واقعه، شهری ست نامعلوم، که در آتش انقلاب می سوزد و انقلابیون خشمگین خیابان ها را انباشته اند. واقعه اما درون صومعه ای (دیری، کلیسایی) نمادی از قدرت در جهانی بزرگ تر، اتفاق می افتد، فضایی بسته و مقدس، در قلب شهری انقلاب زده و آلوده. محور اصلی نمایش نامه، حکایت دو ستیز است؛ میان انقلاب و ضد انقلاب، جنگی فلسفی میان توهم و واقعیت. با وارد شدن رییس پلیس، شانتال، یکی از فاحشه ها صومعه را ترک می کند تا به روح انقلاب بپیوندد. خبر
Justine Hince
Jan 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: plays, read-in-2014
Jean Genet's "The Balcony" addresses the desire and lust for power, fame, and celebrity through the guise of a brothel. High power figures can see their likenesses as characters in the whorehouse, realizing just how famous they have become. Madame Irma runs her brothel in order to let her clients live out their fantasies while she herself feels trapped in the reality she's created. And while the common folk put the people on pedestals, they forget who is really runnjng the show. Those who wish t ...more
Alessia Savi
Sep 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Genet credo sia un autore che difficilmente può essere colto nella totalità delle sue mille sfumature ad una prima lettura. Come spesso accade per i testi teatrali, è una rilettura costante quello che permette di cogliere mille aspetti di una vicenda che non si limita a restare letteratura ma che è destinata ad essere vista su di un palcoscenico. Genet ha una visività violentissima, con tagli di scene molto forti e personaggi-archetipi che sfidano la morale. Il suo "Il balcone" è una riflessione ...more
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
I loved reading this and now I'm itching to see it performed. What I like best about Genet is that he has a sense of humor that reminds me of John Waters while also being a literary talent of the highest order. One of my favorite things about Our Lady of the Flowers was how people spoke to each other, and the bitterness that seemed through their words, and that's very much in evidence here. The Brothel setting is perfect for his style, and there are many scenes that made me cringe, while others ...more
Danny Campbell
Oct 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Though long winded, this play is infamous for a reason. Provocative and thought provoking, Jean Genet makes you sit back and wonder where appearances and "parts we play" in life come to fruition. ITs not just "The balcony" where these characters live and breathe but in our own lives as we also put on appearances. We are just as guilty of creating "characters" as we interact with different people.

Though the subject matter is provoking I still couldn't catch a vision for it. A great play is marke
Mar 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
j'aime quand une œuvre questionne son propre genre. un bordel/théâtre, des personnages/ acteurs qui jouent un rôle, ces femmes (des prostituées) qui mettent en scène des scénarios érotiques, fantasmes masculins pervers et/ou loufoques, pour permettre aux hommes de se réaliser sur un mode de toute-puissance, d'être quelqu'un d'autre, comme un exutoire. la fin d'un monde. la création de millier d'autres. un théâtre coloré, délicieux de petites trouvailles, exubérant, désinvolte, excentrique. viole ...more
Feb 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays
Genet, ever the expert observor of social relations as determined by power roles, takes a look at them here in the context of a brothel where people can enact their sexual fantasies by donning the garb of a bishop or a general, etc. Meanwhile, outside the brothel, a rebellion rages. Genet manages to concentrate many levels of reality here & many levels of disatisfaction. Like everything Genet ever wrote, this is great. Maybe I hold back from giving it a 5 star rating just so I can contrast i ...more
Exquisite stuff! Genet's masterwork of myth and perversion is among the very best of the theatre of the Absurd. So entertaining and thought-provoking, intellectually stimulating and still quite shocking, The Balcony kicks some major existential butt. A character in it, Irma, is now the matriarch of my Absurdity. She was a masterfully crafted character and belongs with her male counterpart, Harold Pinter's Lenny from The Homecoming, as my philosophical King and Queen.
Naeem Nedaee
Jul 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
The play is structured in a specular way - the world within and the world without the brothel. The vulgarity which is naturally associated with the place finds its parallel in the outside world of power. The two worlds, which are one another's reflection, meet when three men from the brothel enter the world of politics as fake heads of the society - after the so-called 'real' ones are killed by the rebels - and see their acted-out fantasies realized. This work is a mockery of dictatorial power r ...more
I read this while I was studying in paris, for a course on Genet and Heinrich Muller. my final paper was an examination of the theoretical commonalities between this play and foucault's "surveiller et punir." also saw a brilliant performance of it at the Athenée theater. just brilliant. there's so much here -- I think there is a good translation available. if not, let's get to work on that shit!
Oct 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: drama
I would like to say I understood this play and its ambitions when dissecting it in graduate school. Sadly, I cannot. It's a curious read, likely better onstage than on the page. Its twisted pageantry would certainly clue me in to the proceedings; on the page, everything seems either too obvious or too vague for my comprehension.
Jun 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: theatre
I'd rather see it performed. Very hard to read. Maybe it's the translation. Maybe one of Genet's other two versions is better. Too many long speeches about nothing. Every line drifts away with ellipsis . . . Starts off funny, then descends into speechifying. I would prefer the action to happen on, not off stage.
Jun 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who like mirrors, disguises, plays, lies, brothels, and revolutions
I found this play by accident, but strangely it is perfect for me, and uses most of the themes that I gravitate toward in art. I wish I could see this performed live (or even the movie) though because I always find it very hard to read plays and judge them. The ending monologue by Irma is now one of my favorites.
Corinne Wahlberg
Mar 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who love french literature
Shelves: plays
I read "The Maids" a while back and was more impressed by this lesser-known work from Genet. I adore Genet. Maybe because he's French. Maybe because his plays are about sex and power and violence ("these are a few of my favorite things"). In any case, it's worth my time to finish off both my degrees with this fabulous little play and it's worth your time to read it.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Collected Shorter Plays
  • The Chairs
  • The Ubu Plays: Ubu Rex / Ubu Cuckolded / Ubu Enchained
  • Complete Plays
  • The Theater and Its Double
  • A Bright Room Called Day
  • Dutchman & The Slave
  • Cloud 9
  • The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade
  • The Zoo Story and Other Plays
  • Caligula and Three Other Plays
  • Accidental Death of an Anarchist
  • Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic
  • The Empty Space: A Book About the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate
  • A Dream Play
  • The Caretaker
  • Five Plays: Antigone, Eurydice, The Ermine, The Rehearsal, Romeo and Jeannette
  • Plays: Maria Irene Fornes
Jean Genet was a prominent, controversial French writer and later political activist. Early in his life he was a vagabond and petty criminal, but later took to writing novels, plays, poems, and essays, including Querelle de Brest, The Thief's Journal, Our Lady of the Flowers, The Balcony, The Blacks and The Maids.
More about Jean Genet

Fiction Deals

  • Mercy Among the Children
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Take Me with You
    $4.49 $1.99
  • The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty
    $7.49 $1.99
  • The Traveler's Gift: Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Little Giant of Aberdeen County
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Her Sister's Shoes (Sweeney Sisters #1)
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Rock Harbor Collection: Without a Trace, Beyond a Doubt, Into the Deep, Cry in the Night, and Silent Night (Rock Harbor #1-5)
    $5.99 $1.99
  • A Thousand Tomorrows (Cody Gunner, #1)
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Shoeless Joe
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Death in Venice
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Blonde
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Ever After (Lost Love, #2)
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Rescue
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Lords of Discipline
    $17.99 $1.99
  • The Sheltering Sky
    $10.99 $1.99
  • Gena/Finn
    $13.99 $1.99
  • A Charles Martin Collection: When Crickets Cry, Chasing Fireflies, and Wrapped in Rain
    $14.99 $3.99
  • Remember Tuesday Morning (9/11, #3)
    $8.99 $1.99
  • The Scavenger's Daughters (Tales of the Scavenger's Daughters #1)
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Under the Udala Trees
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Streets Have No King
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Passion
    $11.00 $1.99
  • This Dark Road to Mercy
    $10.24 $1.99
  • The Language of Hoofbeats
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Not Perfect: A Novel
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Seekers (Kent Family Chronicles, #3)
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Don Quixote
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Essex Serpent
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Storycatcher
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Domestic Violets
    $9.24 $1.99
  • The Devil Wears Prada
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Half a Heart
    $4.99 $2.49
  • The Keeper of Secrets: A Novel
    $9.24 $1.99
  • A Garden of Earthly Delights (Wonderland Quartet, #1)
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Golden Notebook
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Life of Christ
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Good Mother
    $5.74 $1.99
  • The Palest Ink (Tales of the Scavenger's Daughters Prequel)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Go: A Coming of Age Novel
    $4.99 $1.99
  • As Close to Us as Breathing: A Novel
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Just a Drop of Water
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Child in Time
    $8.99 $2.99
  • Lowcountry Stranger (Sweeney Sisters Series Book 2)
    $2.99 $0.99
  • The Man in 3B
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Enemy Women
    $9.74 $1.99
  • Save Me
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Better Nate Than Ever (Better Nate Than Ever #1)
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Time Bomb
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Heat and Light: A Novel
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Reunion
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles)
    $16.99 $1.99
  • Stay Up With Me
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Loser
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.
    $9.99 $3.99
  • The Map and the Territory
    $8.99 $2.99
  • You Know Me Well
    $7.09 $2.99
  • Father's Day
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Skeletons at the Feast
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Even Now (Lost Love, #1)
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street: A Novel
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Moonlight Palace
    $3.99 $0.99
  • This Bright Beauty
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Intervention (An Intervention Novel)
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Star Sand
    $3.99 $0.99
  • Secrets of Nanreath Hall
    $11.74 $1.99
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“If we behave like those on the other side, then we are the other side. Instead of changing the world, all we'll achieve is a reflection of the one we want to destroy.” 42 likes
“The pimp has a grin, never a smile.” 24 likes
More quotes…