Part-autobiography, part-fiction - 'a Genet with a Genet stuffing, like the prunes of Tours', as Sartre put it - The Thief's Journal is an account of Genet's impoverished travels across Europe in the 1930s. Encompassing vagrancy, petty theft, and prostitution, the book transforms such degradations into the gilded rites of an inverted moral code, with Genet its most devout adherent. Betrayal becomes worship; delinquency, heroism. The skeleton of the work is a series of gay encounters between the 'hero' and a succession of shady figures - the con artist, the pimp, the detective even - from the European demi-monde. Appropriating the language of the Church, Genet creates a homily to a trinity of his own making - homosexuality, theft and deception. First published in 1949, The Thief's Journal is justly regarded as a masterpiece of existentialist prose, and is a milestone in the history of gay literature.
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February 02, 1994
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