The Thief’s Journal

ISBN: 1596541377
ISBN 13: 9781596541375
By: Jean Genet

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About this book

Genet's fictionalized and distant account of his rambles through France, Czechoslavakia, Germany and elsewhere in the '30s and '40s, covering his time in prison, his relationships with men such as the one-armed Stilitano, along with erotic accounts of his lovers during the period, and interspersed with meditation and daydreams.

Reader's Thoughts


Jean Genet's absorbing work of literary autobiography traverses the boundaries of genre with stunning ingenuity and imagination. This work is in some ways similar to Capote's use of the so-called "non-fiction novel," in that it recalls apparently true events through the lens of fiction. This is the reflection of a petty thief, and vagabond. Genet is a young man wandering Europe and immersing himself in a world of crime and depravity. He fuses his homosexuality with nefarious hooliganism to play off of our civilization's utter contempt for effeminate males. Genet blurs the boundary of morality with Nietzschean fury as he revels in his self projected "evil." Perhaps what is most astonishing about 'The Thief's Journal' is the way in which Jean Genet comments on his own commentary with startling frankness and lucidity. In many ways this work established many of the literary mechanics of what is now referred to as "post-modern," though Genet achieves the same level of complexity without sacrificing clarity or beauty in the process


Un libro di contrapposizioni. Il Genet narrante e la sua “ascesa” verso il delitto e la dissoluzione, un percorso quasi spirituale verso il basso cercando in questo una sorta di elevazione .E noi che lo leggiamo, lo giudichiamo.Emergono così il suo io e il nostro voi. Il suo appartenere a questa popolazione nascosta di ladri e omosessuali che forma un noi che si alimenta di ogni tipo di sentimenti e degrado, e voi che leggete, quel voi fatto di perbenismo, morale, condanna del peccato. Dalla prostituzione più squallida agli innamoramenti più casti e platonici. Da una profonda solitudine e abbandono che lo accompagnarono sin dall’infanzia e che lo portarono a dire:Abbandonato dai miei familiari, già mi pareva naturale aggravare il fatto con l’amore per i ragazzi e tale amore col furto, e il furto col delitto, o col compiacimento del delitto. Così rifiutavo decisamente un mondo che m’aveva rifiutato.Un diario durissimo e scintillante.


Words are superfluous, stories go back and forth---it is not easy to follow the author's minds.But there are interesting elements. Psychlogy of committing crimes,vivid descriptions of men and friends he had loved. Since it is a highly self-centered story-telling, it was not easy to digest the story fully.I had to skip many paragraphs,just not to be confused. Some stories do not have an ending. For example, readers would like to learn pesicely how his relationship with a one-armed beau had ended. However,you would not come across with this kind of book so often. In that sense, it is an intriguing book.

Michael D.

Morality is overrated. If you're beauty is you, then context is only "lice" on the cake.


I couldn't help but love Genet's bloody dark queer heart after reading this. Such fine prose, beauty and unflinching literary bravery/vulnerability are rare in combination. I think it might be easy to forget, in 2012, that there was a time when tell-all literary autobiographies replete with ghastly admissions were almost unheard of, but this book obviously blew open a very wide doorway through which some of my favorite writers emerged. Given the ambition and successful execution of this memoir -- which Genet is always smart and postmodern enough to acknowledge as a work of literary fiction as much as factual memoir -- it seems almost unfair to criticize it, but it seemed to me at times like Genet was very much in love, in a way I've come to see often among French writers in particular, with the beauty and rhythm of his own prose, as opposed to the luminous, lucid intelligence behind it. At times, for me, because of this, it could be ponderous. But that really is a very small "criticism" relative to my esteem for Genet and what he produced here. Here's a gorgeous passage from the book that I hope will illustrate the kind of complex high points scattered throughout:"The beauty of a moral act depends on the beauty of its expression. To say this it is beautiful is to decide that it will be so. It remains to be proven so. This is the task of images, that is, of the correspondences with the splendors of the physical world. The act is beautiful if it provokes, and in our throat reveals, song. Sometimes the consciousness with which we have pondered a reputedly vile act, the power of expression which must signify it, impel us to song. This means that treachery is beautiful if it makes us sing..."It isn't, in other words, whether to be "wicked" or not; it's to be gorgeous and fully conscious in service to our chosen actions.

Jonathan yates

It reminds of Celine as written by a really gay mani really enjoyed it, very darkside of humanity bookcool


It's always been rather modish to lavish approval on Jean Genet-- if you dig transgressive fiction, Genet's going to be your guy, as most flamingly gay, ex-con, ex-homeless, left-wing French writers who hobnobbed with Black Panthers are bound to be. But aside from the fact that it is a TRANSGRESSIVE FRENCH NOVEL almost to the point of parody, it's still a well-written account of a forgotten subterranean world. RIYL William S. Burroughs and Gus Van Sant.


This semi-autobiographical account of the time in the 1930's Jean Genet lived on the streets of Barcelona, Antwerp and Paris depicts his quest for psychic survival, helped by consciously embracing a set of anti-values. Rejecting a world that rejects him, Genet tells us ...the greater my guilt, the more totally assumed, the greater my freedom.What's unusual, besides the whole book, is Genet's particular trinity of anti-values: treachery, theft and homosexuality. He doesn't just live them passively, he pursues them with masochistic relish. This means taking an erotic pride in his shame before other people, shame for stealing, for turning against a friend, or for sucking off a cop. His first person account of a waif's solitude has some weaknesses and many strengths.The weak points of the story pertain to Genet's non-linear narrative, which jumps around a bit within a nine or ten year period. That's not a bad style; but it has the effect of narrowing the context in which events occur. The success of the book depends on our being able to relate to the main character, and the absence of context makes this hard to do. Other annoyances involve the use of too many parenthetical remarks and footnotes, and sometimes complicated sentences comprised of maddening nested phrases.The strong points of the book are the tone and quality with which Genet tells his story. The author's first-person account of his willful isolation on the margins of society is told with well chosen, almost lyrical sentences and paragraphs that draw attention to pages of exquisite composition. This is in fact the striking attraction of the story. The high quality and thoughtful control of prose that characterizes this book more than make up for its more ragged aspects. Making his task easier are the exotic turns by which Genet's mind pursues its dark side. Genet uses his talented prose to make a special exhibit of his mental state. I thought I might like this book, and the foreword by Sartre is quite an endorsement. This is my first book by Genet and I'd like to read a couple of others. I recommend The Thief's Journal to anyone interested in society's outliers and castoffs.


Despite the fact that this seems to jump about all over the place and doesn't really have a narrative as such, I did enjoy it. I particularly enjoyed reading the descriptions of old Barcelona, which the author brings to life very well. I wish I could read it in the original language because I can't help feeling a few things were lost in translation with the version I was reading (which oddly has the footnotes interspliced at random points in the text.)I warmed to the author greatly through reading the book, despite, or perhaps because of its haphazard nature. I wouldn't necessarily recommend the book though, all things considered.

Burak Yıldız

Samimiyet ve açıkyürekliliğine hayran bırakıyorsun Jean, bu tamam. Kendini savunma, yüceltme gereği duymuyorsunn bu da kıskanılacak bir yönün buna da eyvallah. Eşcinselsin tamam da sürekli betimlediğin eşcinsel sevişmelerin bir süreden sonra 'iğrençsiniz ibneler' dedirtiyor.


Maybe it was just because my version had a bad translation, but somehow I just couldn't enjoy the book. I highly appreciate the story of Genet' but I have a real trouble to truly understand his point of views. Definitely going to read this in original language in the future.


Without a doubt one in a proper life needs to be obsessed with the early Kinks, a love of Howlin' Wolf, read the entire works of Oscar Wilde, to know that there is a big difference between Brian Jones era Rolling Stones to the current Ron Wood years, the love of Charles Shaw brand of wine, and this novel by Jean Genet.It's a must for every young man and woman to read as a teenager. For old men like me it brings a tear to my eye. And why is it that?There is something so incredibly romantic about Genet - and it goes beyond the gay or straight world - it's just a great twilight world where these people live. If you haven't read 'The Thief's Journal, do so. It's a great adventure of sorts.


La traición es la máxima expresión del amor; el crimen, el robo, la homosexualidad son todos elementos escenciales, herramientas que utiliza Genet para trascender en el mundo subterráneo de las ciudades europeas en los años treinta. Para el autor, las acciones no tienen consecuencias éticas o morales, solamente estéticas, y por lo tanto, lo vil, lo marginado y lo andrajoso es adornado con flores, con una narrativa hermosísima llena de lirismo. El diario es una lectura complicada y densa, no sigue una estructura clara, fluye entre diferentes escenarios, diferentes temporalidades, desestabiliza las nociones sobre el bien y el mal, está lleno de nociones tradicionalmente contradictorias, los personajes más crueles son al mismo tiempo portadores de ternura, los actos criminales son descritos como ritos sagrados llenos de significado. Por otro lado, al ser un texto semi auto biográfico, es interesante conocer acerca del submundo de prostitutos, chulos, criminales, asesinos, prisiones, tráfico, espías y méndigos que pupulaban en países como España, Bélgica, Polonia, la antigua Checoslovaquia, Italia y Francia; un mundo donde al parecer la maculinidad y el deseo erótico por personas del mismo sexo coexistían hasta cierto punto.

Pekka Ahonen

Sietämättömän lyyrinen lörpöttelykirjanen. Ainoastaan rasvaisten yksityiskohtien paljous pitää lukijan hereillä.


Genet's masterpiece. Combined with Sarte's "Saint Genet", this book changed the way I understand art and how it works. This books is important for anyone who wants to understand evil and it's relationship to creativity, as well as the moral ambiguity of beauty.Genet's writing is very dense and forces you into abstraction, I found myself rereading very often. It's not an immediately accessible book and I found it philosophically complex, but incredibly rewarding. I would recommend that anyone interested in Jean Genet start with his books rather than his plays, either this one or "Our Lady of the Flowers".

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