In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Open Letter to the Enemy:Jean Genet's Holy War
  • Steven Miller (bio)

J.G. seeks, or is searching for, or would like to discover, never to uncover him, the delicious enemy, quite disarmed, whose equilibrium is unstable, profile uncertain, face inadmissible, the enemy broken by a breath of air, the already humiliated slave, ready to throw himself out the window at the least sign, the defeated enemy: blind, deaf, mute. With no arms, no legs, no stomach, no heart, no sex, no head, all told a complete enemy, already bearing all the marks of my bestiality that now need never be used (too lazy anyway). I want the total enemy, with immeasurable and spontaneous hatred for me, but also the subjugated enemy, defeated by me before he even knows me. Not to be reconciled with me, in any case. No friends. Above all, no friends: a declared enemy, but not a tortured one. Clean, faultless. What are his colors? From a green as tender as a cherry to an effervescent violet. His size? Between the two of us, he presents himself to me man to man. No friends. I seek an inadequate enemy, one who comes to capitulate. I will come at him with all that I can muster: whacks, slaps, kicks, I will feed him to starving foxes, make him eat English food, attend the House of Lords, be received at Buckingham Palace, fuck Prince Phillip, and be fucked by him, live for a month in London, dress like me, sleep in place of me, live in place of me: I seek the declared enemy.

This brief text was not published until 1991. It was almost published in 1975 in a book of homages to William Burroughs and Brion Gysin, and was to have been preceded with the following explanation of its origins, written by Gysin:

In Tangiers in 1970, Jean Genet asked me what ever happened to the English underground newspaper The International Times. When I responded that the editors were having trouble with the law in England because of the newspaper's ads for "special friendships" [amitiés particulières], he exclaimed: "Why friends? Personally, I am looking for a suitable enemy [un ennemi à ma taille]." He then wrote the following text...

[qtd. in Genet, ED 9]

Hence the anecdotal reason for the form of the personal advertisement. In 1991 the text was published—according to Genet's wishes—as the first page of the posthumous collection of his political writings and interviews, L'ennemi déclaré.1 Such a placement demands more than an anecdotal explanation. What is a personal ad doing as the preface to a collection of political writings? Albert Dichy, the editor of the collection, notes that this text has the status of an exception: "the text that opens the collection does not belong to the group of writings that make up the book as a whole" [ED 331]. Each of the other texts emerges from Genet's involvement in specific political events (the [End Page 85] 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention, the Chatila massacre) or with named political figures and groups (the Palestinians, the Black Panthers, the Baader-Meinhof group, George Jackson, Angela Davis), whereas the form of the ad that he wrote for Gysin seems to number it among his literary works. Nonetheless, this eccentric text remains the first in the collection—"en tête de l'ouvrage," is Dichy's phrase—and gives the book its title. Rather than serving as an introduction to the other texts, this text, by virtue of its exceptional form, is a challenge addressed directly to the public. Dichy himself is the first to accept this challenge. His editorial notice passes quickly from anecdote to interpretation:

The fact that Genet wished to see the publication of his political articles preceded by this precise text has an unavoidable impact, not only on the identity of the author, now partially assimilable to a fictional character ("J.G. cherche, ou recherche . . ."), but also on the way in which we read the different texts in the collection, now that we have been given the general tone and the note of secrecy.

[ED 331]

These suggestions are apt enough...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 85-113
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.