‘The Thief’s Journey’ is the journey into the strange and unique mind of Jean Genete; itinerant tramp and erstwhile novelist, the poetry of his prose beautifies the banality and brutality of its subject, of theft, violence, betrayal and murder, the depraved world of thieves, pimps and would-be murderers which Genete feels drawn to and is able to find beauty in-or rather, Genet is able to transmute his life and ideas, which upend and contradict normal concepts of herosim, love and beauty, via his art;
“I refused to live for any other end than the one which I found to contain the first misfortune: that my life must be a legend, in other words legible, and must give birth to a certain new emotions which I call poetry. I am no longer anything, only a pretext”
Genet therefore ends up becoming a symbol, a blunt instrument to weave the untold stories of the men who Genet met and loved during his perambulations around Europe, but at the same time art is able to give meaning to his ideas and life. Indeed the beauty of Genet’s style saves the novel from the inspidity of the subject matter, transforms the violence of the world around him into something beautiful and eternal:
“The purple of sunsets, according to physicists, is the result of a greater thickness of air which is cross only by short waves. At mid-day, when nothing is happening in the sky, and apparition of this kind would disturb us less; the wonder is that is occurs in the evening, at the most poignant time of the day, when the sun sets, when it disappears to pursue some mysterious destiny, where perhaps it dies. The physical phenomenon that fills the sky with such pomp is possible only at the moment that most exalts the imagination; at the setting of the most brilliant of heavenly bodies.”
Genet has now political or social axe to grind in ‘The Thief’s Journal’, his sole goal is to render the world of deprivation he involved himself in into something ever-lasting, something ethereal and touching. It is not my favourite Genet, but it represents what is probably the purest essence of his life and art.