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interview JEAN GENET The Intellectual As Guerrilla In September 1982 Genet travelled to Beirut. One day after the massacre by the Christian Falangist militia, he managed to spend a few hours in the camp of Chattila. He published his first report under the title "4 Hours in Chattila." Thirteen years earlier, between October 1970 and April 1971, Genet had been invited by the PLO at which time he visited Palestinian camps and military bases on the Syrian-Jordanian border. 38 What was it that compelled you to commit yourself so strongly to the cause of the Palestinians and the PLO? Up to now it's been rather rare that you spoke out with such determination on behalf of a political movement or group. You have done so for the Black Panthers in the US and for the Red Army Faction in the Federal Republic of Germany. What led me to it has first of all to do with my personal history which I don't want to tell you. That's not interesting. Anyone who wants to know more about that can read my books. That's not important. What I do want to tell you, however, is that my previous books-I stopped writing about thirty years ago-belong to a period of dreaming, of day-dreaming. Once I had passed through this dream, this day-dream, it was time to take action in order to reach something like fulfillment in my life. You mentioned the Black Panthers and the Red Army Faction as well as the Palestinians. To make it short, let me tell you, that I supported those who asked me to get involved . The Black Panthers came to Paris and asked me to come to the United States, which I did immediately. Klaus Croissant came and asked me to help the cause of Baader. Ten years ago it was the Palestinians who said I should come to Jordan. Madame Chahid asked me a year ago to come to Beirut. Of course I was on the side of the people who rebelled. Because of course I myself also questioned all of society. So we have Genet as a man in revolt, a fighter? After all, it's not that easy a decision to go to Lebanon, as a fighter or as an eye-witness, someone who reports about it, as you did. In 1967 ... I don't know who had caused that war ... was it Nasser, was it Israel . . . Idon't want to determine that . .. I was in England. I took a train to France, no special reason. It so happened that there were only Englishmen in my compartment. I asked them where they were going. They said: "To Israel. To help." They all were Jews. I assume you'd find it quite understandable that Englishmen would come to the aid of Israel, because Israel was in danger. Now why do you ask me what reasons I had to help a people in danger? There are connections between the Palestinians, the Panthers, the Red Army Faction and myself. So it's normal that I'd help them. I can't help them much, because a seventy-three-year-old man can't do much for a young people that revolts. But as much as I can help them, I do. In your book "4 Hours in Chattila" as well as in previous books you talk about the beauty you found there. A beauty, for which there was a place, macabre and tragic, to be sure, even in Lebanon. That is also why I wanted to know what made you go to Lebanon. I've also been in banks. And I never saw a beautiful bank. I ask myself, if this beauty you're talking about-and it's a problem for me, too, I ask myself this question-if this beauty of which I wrote in my books doesn't come from the fact that the rebels regained a freedom they had lost. Is it difficult 39 to follow me? Yes, somewhat. What does this beauty and this freedom consist of? The beauty of the revolutionaries manifests itself in a kind of matter-offactness , an insolence even...


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