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Collection of Jean Genet Drafts and Proofs

 Collection
Call Number: GEN MSS 1739

Content Description

The collection consists of manuscript drafts and corrected typescripts as well as galley and page proofs for works by Jean Genet, 1952-1982, including Le Bagne, Le Balcon, Les Nègres, and Le Langage de la muraille: cent ans jour après jour. It also contains manuscripts with sketches by the author and artworks on paper by others, including two hand-colored lithographs by Alberto Giacometti, created as a cover illustration for Le Balcon.

Material related to Le Bagne consists of a completed film screenplay, approximately 1952-1954, and fragments of a play script, between 1958 and 1963.

Material related to Le Balcon contains drafts, autograph manuscripts, typescripts, and corrected proofs, 1955-1956, for the first edition of Le Balcon published in 1956 by L’Arbalète and Marc Barbezat.

Material related to Les Nègres includes multiple drafts, an unpublished preface to the play, and galley proofs, 1955-1957.

Material related to Le Langage de la muraille: cent ans jour après jour includes preparatory documents, and manuscript and typescript drafts for the screenplay, approximately 1981-1982, bound in three volumes.

Dates

  • 1952 - 1982

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Collection of Jean Genet Drafts and Proofs is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Librairie Benoit Forgeot on the Edwin J. Beinecke Book Fund, 2021.

Related Materials

See also:

Tonnerre de Brest, 1945 (GEN MSS VOL 801). Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

Jean Genet page proof and first edition of Journal du voleur, circa 1947-1948 (GEN MSS 1617). Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

Jean Genet and Paul Morihien papers relating to publishing, 1947 (GEN MSS VOL 804). Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

Extent

1.67 Linear Feet (5 boxes)

Language of Materials

French

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL

https://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/beinecke.genetjean

Overview

The collection consists of manuscript drafts and corrected typescripts as well as galley and page proofs for works by Jean Genet, 1952-1982, including Le Bagne, Le Balcon, Les Nègres, and Le Langage de la muraille: cent ans jour après jour. It also contains manuscripts with sketches by the author and artworks on paper by others, including two hand-colored lithographs by Alberto Giacometti, created as a cover illustration for Le Balcon.

Jean Genet (1910-1986)

Jean Genet (1910-1986) was a French novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, and political activist.

Jean Genet was born in Paris, France, to Camille Gabrielle Genet, a twenty-two years old, single, maidservant. Struggling to support herself, she turned her son over to social services when he was seven months old. In July 1911, Genet became a ward of the state and was sent to live with a foster family in Alligny-en-Morvan. He excelled at school, but also engaged in petty theft during his youth. In September 1926, after repeated criminal offenses, the state sent Genet to the Penitentiary Colony of Mettray. In March 1929 he enlisted in the French Army to gain an early release from Mettray. He served in Lebanon, Syria, Morocco, Algeria, and deserted his army post in June 1936. Genet then traveled around Europe as a vagabond, petty thief, and prostitute—experiences he recounts in Le Journal du voleur (The Thief's Journal). He returned to France in July 1937 and spent the next several years in and out of prison. In 1938 he received a dishonorable discharge from the Army on grounds of indecency.

Genet began to write during these periods of incarceration. In 1942, he completed the poem Un Condamné à Mort (The Man Sentenced to Death) and his first novel Notre Dame des Fleurs (Our Lady of the Flowers), which was published anonymously in 1943. Between 1944 and 1949, Genet wrote four novels—Miracle de la rose (Miracle of the Rose), Funeral Rites, Querelle de Brest, and Journal d’un voleur (A Thief’s Journal). In 1948, Genet faced a sentence of life imprisonment following ten convictions, until prominent literary figures including Jean Cocteau and Jean-Paul Sartre appealed on his behalf and secured a presidential pardon.

In addition to his novels, Genet experimented with drama. He wrote Haute Surveillance (Deathwatch) in 1944, Les Bonnes in 1947 (The Maids), and Splendid's in 1948. Throughout the 1950s he devoted himself to theater, writing experimental and increasingly political plays: Le Balcon (The Balcony), Les Nègres (The Blacks), and Elle (Her) in 1955, and Les Paravents between 1956 and 1961 (The Screens), a play about the Algerian War of Independence.

Genet also authored several screenplays. In 1950, he wrote and directed the short film Un Chant d'Amour, depicting the fantasies of a gay male prisoner and his prison warden. Genet was also the author of the screenplay for Le Bagne (The Penal Colony) (1952-1954); La Nuit venue/Le Bleu de L'oeil (The Night Has Come/The Blue of the Eye) (1976–1978); Divine, an adaptation of his first novel, Our Lady of the Flowers, at the request of David Bowie during the 1970s; and Le Langage de la muraille: cent ans jour après jour (The Language of the Walls: One Hundred Years Day after Day), a TV series for Antenne 2 that was abandoned in 1982 before production.

In the late 1960s Genet became politically active. He participated in demonstrations that drew attention to the living conditions of immigrants in France, was involved with Michel Foucault’s Groupe d'information sur les prisons (GIP), visited members of the Black Panther Party in the United States, and spent time in Palestinian refugee camps. He wrote articles and essays that spoke in solidarity with oppressed groups. In 1983, Genet began Un captif amoureux (Prisoner of Love), which recounts his experiences with Palestinian fighters and Black Panther Party members. He completed the book just before his death in Paris in April 1986.

Jean Genet Writing Process and Custodial Histories

Jean Genet's working method involved writing in school notebooks and giving in-progress manuscripts to a typist for transcription. He then corrected the typescript, annotating the typewritten pages with new passages, inserting autograph additions on loose sheets, or pasting autograph corrections onto the typed document – thereby generating a new manuscript. Genet then had a typist create another transcription, and that typescript was in turn corrected, enriched, and restructured. Moreover, Genet mixed autograph or typed sheets from earlier states of drafts during stages of rewriting, which makes it difficult to reconstruct the genesis of the works.

Drafts of Genet’s works often appear in the personal papers of his friends and patrons (including Roland Dumas and Jacques Guérin), editors and publishers (including Paul Morihien, Marc Barbezat, and Monique Lange), his literary agent Bernard Frechtman, and others. Much of this material was later donated to repositories or sold at auction.

The group of material for Le Bagne in this collection illustrates Genet’s writing process as well as the custodial history of one of his works. He wrote the screenplay between 1952 and 1954 and set it aside in 1956. Genet started writing the theatrical play version of Le Bagne in 1958 and destroyed his last version at the time of the suicide of his partner Abdallah Bentaga in March 1964. However, two sets of drafts of Le Bagne remained: one Genet gave to his publisher, Marc Barbezat in 1963, and another he gave to his literary agent and American translator, Bernard Frechtman. In 1990 Barbezat acquired the copy owned by Frechtman at auction. Barbezat used both drafts to create a posthumous version of the theatrical play of Le Bagne published by L’Arbalète in 1994.

Custodial History

The groups of materials for Le Bagne, Le Balcon and Les Nègres were part of the Barbezat Collection sold at auction at Drouot, Paris, France, on March 5, 1999 (Le Bagne Lot 39, Les Nègres Lot 41, Le Balcon Lot 42).

Processing Information

Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether or not further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.

These materials have been arranged and described according to national and local standards. For more information, please refer to the Beinecke Manuscript Unit Processing Manual.
Title
Guide to the Collection of Jean Genet Drafts and Proofs
Author
Sandrine Guérin
Date
September 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
English

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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