Jeffrey Round's Reviews > The Balcony

The Balcony by Jean Genet
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May 15, 2012

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Read in May, 2012

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 bishop and a queen in real life. Genet claimed to be inspired to write Le Balcon because of events in Franco’s Spain, though he may also have been indebted to passages in Marcel Proust's final novel, Le Temps retrouvé. This translation is based on Genet's more-politicised, revised version of the play and feels quite tedious in parts. Nor is the idea that the working class would rise up to supplant the ruling class and then turn out to be just as bad as their predecessors really all that novel. On the other hand, this may have been the work that inspired the noir masterpiece, The Cutting Room, by Louise Welsh.
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