The Balcony

ISBN: 0571192971
ISBN 13: 9780571192977
By: Jean Genet

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About this book

Jean Genet's The Balcony, which premiered in 1957, has come to be recognised as one of the founding plays of modern theatre, and is what the philosopher Lucien Goldmann has called 'the first great Brechtian play in French literature'.In a brothel of an unnamed French city the madam, Irma, directs a series of fantastical scenarios - a bishop forgives a penitent, a judge punishes a thief, a general rides astride his horse. Outside, an uprising threatens to engulf the streets. The patrons of the brothel wait anxiously for the chief of police to arrive, but in his place comes the queen's envoy to inform that the figureheads of the establishment have been killed in the uprising. Play-acting turns to reality, as the patrons don their costumes in public in the attempt to quell the insurrection.Illusion and reality, order and dissolution - these are the grand themes of The Balcony, all refracted through the prism of Genet's sexualised genius.

Reader's Thoughts


Together with The Maids, The Balcony is one of Gene's masterpiecesمحل 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 می رسد که ارکان جامعه، از جمله قاضی القضات، اسقف، ژنرال و غیره، در قیام مردم ذبح شده اند. بالکن همراه با "کلفت ها" از شاهکارهای ژان ژنه محسوب می شوند. بالکن توسط کارگردانان بزرگ تیاتر اروپا، نظیر "پیتر بروک" و "اروین پیسکاتور" و... بارها بر صحنه های تیاتر اروپا اجرا شده است. لوسین گلدمن (جامعه شناس) نمایش نامه را یک اثر بزرگ برشتی در تیاتر فرانسه خوانده و مارتین اسلین آن را شاهکار عصر ما لقب داده است. در مورد "تیاتر ابزورد" اینجا را بخوانید

J.M. Slowik

A strange little satirical triptych, in its three-act version. The man knows his evil...


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!


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.


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 it to other Genet bks that I like even more, maybe b/c I'm not such an enthusiast for plays - preferring more radical forms: such as guerrilla actions.


my favorite play to read and re-read, since I always catch something i missed within genet's rich symbolism. and okay, okay...its got kinky sex in it!

Eliza T. Williamson

This play was a toughie--


The Balcony (French for brothel) is the extension of the real social phenomenon of the world. By drawing meticulous parallels, Genet deals directly with the fundamental structure of modern society. So by setting the actions of the play within the walls of a brothel, this play becomes a vehicle to criticize social reality.


rotten with genius


A neat exploration of icons and public figures and the people behind them. It would be neat to see staged.




Always makes me want to scream with recognition.

Corinne Wahlberg

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.

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 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.


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.

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