The Balcony

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Grove Press, Jan 21, 1994 - Drama - 96 pages
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Book jacket/back: The setting of Jean Genet's celebrated play is a brothel that caters to refined sensibilities and peculiar tastes. Here men from all walks of life don the garb of their fantasies and act them out: a man from the gas company wears the robe and mitre of a bishop; another customer becomes a flagellant judge, and still another a victorious general, while a bank clerk defiles the Virgin mary. These costumed diversions take place while outside a revolution rages which has isolated the brothel from the rest of the rebel-controlled city. In a stunning series of macabre, climactic scenes, Genet presents his caustic view of man and society.

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The Balcony by Jean Genet is a simple tale of complex structure that veils a story of commonality among the societal aristocrats with a sheer laced backdrop of civil unrest. The focal point of the story is a brothel, which the madame prefers befittingly called a house of illusions. The essence of this house is its many mirrors which, in the simplest sense, represent the ability of man to create his own existence. Strategically placed mirrors throughout the play act as word-less characters that add to the granduer of each scene. The brothel is a play house for tricks to come pretend to be the community leaders and act out their fantasies and lustful desires of dominion and servitude, sin and penance, fornication and reconciliation. Genet uses sex and death to convey basic concepts of justice and peace to show how the give and take of arbitration and aristocracy, while necessary and honorable, are not doing anything to counteract the degradation of society as a whole. 


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About the author (1994)

Jean Genet was born in Paris, France on December 19, 1910. He was an illegitimate child abandoned by his mother, raised by Public Assistance, and sent to live with foster parents at the age of seven. At the age of 10 he was accused of stealing. He spent five years at the Mettray Reformatory and as a young adult spent time in various European prisons for vagrancy, homosexuality, theft, and smuggling. He began writing in 1942, while in prison. His works include Our Lady of the Flowers, Miracle of the Rose, and The Thief's Journal. In 1948, he was convicted of burglary for the 10th time and condemned to automatic life imprisonment. However, by 1947, his works had gained attention from such writers as Jean-Paul Sartre, André Gide, and Jean Cocteau. After the sentence, they petitioned for his release and a pardon was granted. In the late 1940s, Genet began to write for the theatre, but several of his plays were too controversial to be performed in France. His plays included The Maids, Deathwatch, The Blacks, and The Balcony. He died on April 15, 1986.

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