Jean Genet’s life experiences in 1940’s France affected the content of his book Querelle of Brest. This is immediately evident when you glance at the main character of Querelle of Brest. The immediate comparisons are obvious, both Jean Genet and Querelle were in the French military, both Genet and Querelle are criminals, and both Genet and Querelle have a history of homosexual tendencies. These similarities are just the surface however. Genet uses the characters in Querelle of Brest to express complex ideas about his own self-image.
Before delving into these ideas however, one must first know a bit about Jean Genet’s personal history and the environment he was in. Jean Genet was born in ...view middle of the document...
After being discharged from the military Genet started wandering Europe, supporting himself through a combination of stealing and prostitution. It was during this time of traveling when Genet found himself in Nazi Germany which he disliked and decided to go a country with more moral fiber. (New World)
After Nazi Germany, Genet decided to return to France where he spent most of his time in and out of prison. It was during this time period that Genet wrote most of his early works including Querelle of Brest. The very controversial and vulgar diction that the novel uses is what one would expect from someone who had lived the sort of life that Querelle had but Genet did not simply choose to use that sort of language because it was what he was used to. Jean Genet really wanted to shock his readers.
Jean Gene lived to make others see what the considered immoral. French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote an analysis on Jean Genet entitled Saint Genet where he called Genet a "passéistes" which means that Genet relates every experience he has to the time period where he discovered who he was, namely from the age of ten to fifteen. (Sartre) It was during this time period when Genet resolved to be a criminal and discovered himself to be homosexual. Both traits that he used to describe himself were shunned in society.
To avoid having a terrible self-image Genet flaunted both his criminal activity and his sexuality and came to love the detestation that others gave him due to his lifestyle choices. This is shown perfectly by his dislike of Nazi Germany. Genet described why he disliked the country when he said, "I had a feeling of being in a camp of organized bandits. This is a nation of thieves, I felt. If I steal here, I accomplish no special act that could help me to realize myself. I merely obey the habitual order of things. I do not destroy it." (goodreads) Genet wanted so strongly to do what was considered wrong that he left the one place where what he did was considered right.
This love of immorality shows through in the writing of Querelle of Brest. Genet describes murder like he describes artwork and murderers like artists. Genet wrote “Added to the moral solitude of the murderer comes the solitude of the artist, which can acknowledge no authority, save that of another artist.” (goodreads) Genet clearly sees the act of murder something that is beautiful in its own twisted way. He has even been quoted saying “I recognize in thieves, traitors and murderers, in the ruthless and the cunning, a deep beauty - a sunken beauty.” (goodreads) Similarly, homosexual intercourse and everyone who participates in it is glorified. In particular Querelle, Nono, and Mario get lots of praise for their looks. Querelle even uses homosexual intercourse as a way to cleanse himself of past wrongs.
Querelle is very different than other Jean Genet novels in its glorification of immorality. It is the only one of Genet’s written works where the main...