Querelle of Brest (Faber Fiction Classics)

ISBN: 0571203671
ISBN 13: 9780571203673
By: Jean Genet G. Streatham

Check Price Now


Currently Reading Favorites Fiction France French Gay Lgbt Literature Queer To Read

About this book

Querelle of Brest is regarded by many critics as Jean Genet's highest achievement in the novel- certainly one of the landmarks of postwar French literature. The story of a dangerous man seduced by danger, it deals in a startling way with the Dostoevskian theme of murder as an act of total liberation, and as a pact demanding an answering sacrifice.Querelle is a young sailor at large in the port of Brest. His abrupt senior officer, Lt. Seblon, records in an elegant diary his longing for the young man. The policeman Mario, who frames his mates for stealing from the Monoprix, covets him. The brothel keeper's husband, feels entitled to possess him. The murderer in hiding, whom he nourishes, embraces him. Even the madam herself, despite her dispproval of his kind, becomes Querelle's mistress. 'His elaborate constructed novel about a sailor in Brest who murders and allows representatives of authority, like policemen and ponces, to act out their sexual fantasies on him is continuously vivid and varied...To ignore it would be a kind of treason to culture one inhabits' PUNCH 'In spite of the quality of the rapaciousness and lust-the corruption by both the establishment and the outsider, the characters in Genet's books all share a burning, tempestuous passion to live. For them, to do good or evil is part of the human condition-and to sin is better than to do nothing, because it means to exist. On the final count, Querelle of Brest stands for a great cry of affirmation on the side of life' THE SPECTATOR

Reader's Thoughts


1 star for being a disastrous editorial effort + 5 stars for its inimitably sexy style and transgressive genius = 3-star average.As with all Genet, I mostly had no idea what was going on (or why), yet I still was fascinated, aroused, and disturbed. Until Querelle, I had no idea a book could be both unreadable and captivating at the same time. Having now read the book, I can say that the deliciously surreal Fassbinder film of the same name) is unquestionably THE best, most "faithful" (and hottest) book-to-movie adaptation in the history of cinema.


Gay French maritime murder-porn! Pretty good read, too.

Mikael Kuoppala

An intensely and beautifully erotic and poetically written novel that has its roots in existentialism.


I had been meaning to read this for years, especially after watching Fassbinder's 1982 film adaptation, but I somehow never got to it. Matthew McConaughey's character in the amazing Paperboy made me remember the book again.The story might be of interest only from a historic point of view more than anything else, as it's really daring for when it was written and it deals really blatantly with the themes of sex and violence. I found the writing rather messy, but there are passages that truly are magic. For me the most captivating thing is Querelle's psychology and how he approaches his relationships with other men. I felt the murdering instincts and general criminal activities were far less interesting and at points my mind actually drifted away.I am happy I've finally read it, but I don't think I'll read it again any time soon. It made me want to watch the film again, though.


I read Querelle after finishing Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward (a must read), in which Steward tries for years to get his translation of it published in english, to no avail. Genet's book originally appeared in French in the 40's and Steward was simply too far ahead of his time in thinking that the subject matter would be accepted in the US. Steward, and several of his literary companions, shared a reverence for Genet and this book in particular….one going so far as to travel to Brest to hunt down every nook and cranny mentioned in the book that was still standing and accessible. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to finish Steward's bio and get my hands on a copy of it. That anticipation and the build up to it is, in large part, responsible for my reaction to the book and this review. In no uncertain terms I can say that the writing is beautiful, almost hypnotically poetic. Add to that a delicious cast of characters- murderers, thieves, whores, sex addicts, liars, convicts and voyeurs. Add also an appropriately dangerous setting- the sinister underbelly of a seedy, French, port town with all its hiding places, abandoned prisons, whore houses, dark alleys, bleak ramparts and deserted dockyards. Yes! The perfect storm I thought as I dove in and began turnning pages. (I could just see Jean Paul Belmondo with the collar of his pea coat turned up, lurking in the shadows.) Unfortunately, as I went along, I became increasingly aware that I was grasping for something in the book that wasn’t altogether there. I couldn't get a hold of a through line that compelled me to keep going, yet I did. Was it because of Genet's tendency to ramble off on philosophical tangents that constantly interruped the story line? Was it the result of a poor translation? My over-eagerness to 'get into it'? Whatever it was, I was left with an ambivalence, a disappointement that there wasn’t more to wrest from the experience. Finally, as with many things in life, I’m sorry to say that my disappointment in it was almost as great as my anticipation of it, and will quote the same sentence that another reviewer, below, quoted from page 255: “This book goes on for too many pages, and it bores us.”....probably not unlike this initerminable review, you're thinking.

Ismael Schonhorst

A gay (literal and metaphorical sense) life prose-poetry: meaning, lessons and reflections about being.


I don't give out 5 stars lightly.the English translation of Querelle (originally French) is easily one of the best translations I've ever read. The lyrical beauty of the work remains wonderfully in tact. Querelle is super thick, rich, compelling, and dark. The filthy world of sailors and brothels lends itself to one of the queerest (here i meant "strangest" until I realized that it fully embodies both meanings of the word) things I've ever read. It's difficult, but so worth getting through. I feel bad on my 5 star ratings because I feel that nothing I could ever say would portend what lies between the covers of these books. But as of yet, its in the best 10 books I've ever had the pleasure of reading.

Sue Tincher

Gay sex among the French sailors. Lusty, corrupt police. Drugs. Murder. Betrayal. Lots of muscular young bodies. Not really my thing...


Al contrario de la mayoría de las obras de Genet, Querelle no se basa en aspectos biográficos del autor. La trama es "sencilla" en el sentido de que funciona como una base sólida que sostiene el aspecto psicológico de los personajes, pero también podría decir que la trama es muy compleja debido a la elegante, perversa y alucinante prosa de Genet. Uno de los elementos que más me llamó la atención fue el papel que juega Brest, la ciudad portuaria francesa, en el desarrollo de la historia: burdeles, naves militares, callejones solitarios, galerones abandonados... la materialidad del espacio funciona como una lupa que nos permite ver con más detalle el mundo subterráneo de violencia, sensualidad, homoerotismo, traición y camaradería que pupula sutilmente de la mente de Genet.Como es característico de Genet, el héroe es siempre en cierto sentido, un antagonista. Querelle es masculino, es fuerte, es atractivo, pero está más allá de la redención. Los vaivenes psicológicos con los que Genet intenta analizar las acciones de Querelle es un aspecto que vale la pena resaltar


Well, it is full of buggery, but it's so much more. And not just the notion that a body is nothing but scaffolding for a man's balls.

Jerome K

Hmm... not one of Genet's best... Definitely not a good place to appreciate his work. I decided to read this after watching that strange Fassbinder film adaptation, which I thought was interesting until the totally anticlimactic ending. The novel has a similarly anticlimactic end. I don't know why this is is. Maybe Genet just ran out of paper.


The transformative power of murder. Narcissism as an act of spirituality. Very interesting but difficult to read (in the translation). The fact that it is racier than most of today's fiction while maintaining it's literary pitch is amazing. The fact it was written over 50 years ago is unbelievable. Not for the faint of heart.


genet pushes boundaries in this novel as necessity and convention clash. the raw, bleeding tension and blatant disregard for the soft and fuzzy thrust deep inside me and kick started a hunger for faceless encounters in dark alleys.

Daniel Lee

Genet truly put the "literary" in "literary smut" with QUERELLE. The prose is exquisitely elegant, like his other great works--Notre Dame des Fleurs, etc.--but the eroticism within the text that doesn't cross into the pornographic despite its explicitness is where the real art lies.

Morgan Gallegos

This book is beautifully written but is really really dense. It can be hard to keep up in the beginning but the story is fascinating. My only wish is that the narrative didn't jump around so much. The story lines become very confused which works well for the overall story but can be very difficult to read.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *