The Criminal Child offers the first English translation of a key early work by Jean Genet. In 1949, in the midst of a national debate about improving the French reform-school system, Radiodiffusion Française commissioned Genet to write about his experience as a juvenile delinquent. He sent back a piece that was a paean to prison instead of the expected horrifying exposé. Revisiting the cruel hazing rituals that had accompanied his incarceration, relishing the special argot spoken behind bars, Genet bitterly denounced any improvement in the condition of young prisoners as a threat to their criminal souls. The radio station chose not to broadcast Genet’s views.
“The Criminal Child” appears here with a selection of Genet’s finest essays, including his celebrated piece on the art of Alberto Giacometti.
An homage to a tightrope walker, Jean Cocteau's elegant prose, and the "breathable" paintings of Leonor Fini that evoke "a swamp smell" are just a few of the subjects broached in this slim but topically vast collection from the late French novelist and playwright Genet (1910 1986). The entries are united by Genet's signature probing, at times obscure, prose and his fascination with morality, misfits, and art. "The Criminal Child," originally intended for radio broadcast, was censored because of Genet's sympathy for the titular subject, with whom he identifies having been incarcerated himself and celebrates as a rebellious and beautiful outlaw resisting the powerful. Genet's attraction to society's marginal inhabitants continues throughout each of the following essays. In Alberto Giacometti's sculpture he sees "an art of high-class tramps." In "Fragments," Genet reflects on how homosexuality has exiled him from conventional morality. Throughout, Genet is a deft, sensual, and outrageous critic in regards to theater, he proclaims, "A performance that does not act on my soul is vain." Fans will be pleased with this gathering of Genet's inimitable reflections on art, life, and his muses.