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L ’E spr it C r éa teu r Jean Genet. S p le n d id 's. Paris: L’Arbalète, 1993. Pp. 108. 80 FF. Genet’s posthumously published Splendid's (written in 1948) has the skeletal structure of a robber’s romp. Its seven blustering hoods shove each other around until, in a surprise reversal, their associate, a turn-coat cop, reasserts his identity as upholder of the law. Genet, however, pushes these Hollywood stereotypes far beyond the macho violence o f an Edward G. Robinson film. If in sync with a mid-century European fascination for Ameri­ can gangster culture, Splendid’s uses gangland’s representational trappings to figure some­ thing else. Indeed at times the play takes on the contours of a transvestite ball. The luxury hotel, the kidnapped and accidentally killed American heiress, the encirclement of the criminals by a police force breathing down their necks, and the quintessential jockeying for status provide a means for exploring strategies of identity, the defining nature of images, and emotional exhaustion—themes and moods which will ultimately give radical shape to Genet’s later plays. Characters “ Bob,” “ Bravo,” “ Rafale,” “ Riton,” “ Johnny,” “ Scott,” “ Pierrot,” and “ The Cop” consciously play at being “ the gangsters they never were” (21), while also performing for each another “ masculinity,” “ desire,” and “jealousy.” Bound by their refusal of boundaries and a near mystical faith in their own transformative powers, Pierrot turns himself into his recently deceased brother and Johnny metamorphoses into the murdered kidnapped victim. The fear of death, but also its fascination, inspire all the characters to climb the slippery heights of criminal apotheosis. Nonetheless, in the end, Genet’s Splendid’s proclaims the inability of everyday play-acting and dramatic per­ formance to keep death at bay. Unconquerable, death’s presence hangs over the characters’ apparent cynicism like a vampire, draining the spark from their world games. Their machine guns, ironic substitutes for potency and partnership, turn into major means o f self-destruction. Impending doom, communicated through the invasive commentaries of a radio reporter, tempers even the criminals’ poetic flights. The reporter’s recorded voice, which punctuates the stage action every few scenes, menacingly establishes the world off stage and mockingly suggests that the only real, the “ real” real, is the approaching police force. Verbal inventiveness and self­ selected images do not save the characters from their fate. Splendid’ s, unlike Genet’s later plays, does not proffer words which take on a life of their own or create realities which escape the confines of a plot constructed through surprise and revelation. Genet fights off love and death, fixed gender positions, and psychological essentialism without benefit of the destabilizing effects, undercutting of meaning, and refusal of closure which situate Le Balcon, Les Nègres, and Les Paravents among the most innovative and compelling plays of the twentieth century. The result is a curious compromise between drag show and well-made play. Perhaps Genet, unlike what Albert Dichy would have us believe in his introduction, really did know what he was doing when he withdrew this play from publication. Nonetheless, for scholars of Genet and students of the evolving theater of our times Splendid’s is a provocative dramatic document, a rich reminder of the stretch of Genet’s inventiveness. J u d i t h G. M i l l e r University o f Wisconsin-Madison Eurêka. Numéro spécial. J e a n G e n e t : P r i s o n , H o m o s e x u a l ité , P o l i t i q u e . Tokyo: Edi­ tions Seido-sha, juin 1992. Pp. 246. Revue littéraire largement diffusée, Eurêka, en consacrant un dossier de 170 pages à Genet, nous donne l’occasion de saisir la spécificité de la réception de son oeuvre au Japon 80 Sp r in g 1995 B ook R ev iew s puisque la majorité des articles, ici rassemblés, sont rédigés par des critiques japonais. Au moment de la publication de ce numéro spécial, Un captif amoureux et L ’Ennemi déclaré n ’avaient pas...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 80-81
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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