Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Jean Genet, David Bowie and suffering

ArtHeat writes some interesting thoughts about a David Bowie song about Jean Genet.

There is a kind of radical cool associated with otherness and suffering, as reflected in David Bowie’s song about Jean Genet. But it is quite another thing for the sufferer. Similarly, amidst the art world’s often trite theoretical flirtations with otherness and suffering, it was quite another thing listen to the presentation by Jean Mathee at Studio 2666 on Friday evening.

I didn’t know that there was such a song, but having recently found a copy of a biography of Jean Genet on a bookshop sale counter the other day, it pricked my interest.

I first heard of Jean Genet from an Anglican monk, Brother Roger, of the Community of the Resurrection, who mentioned him in a paper he once read at a student conference, Pilgrims of the absolute. He also lent me some of Genet’s plays to read, and I bought a few more. An interesting experience was going to see a film of The balcony. Word had apparently got around that it was set in a brothel, and the weekday matinee audince consisted mostly of dirty old men in raincoats, most of whom walked out before the end. It was almost as fascinating as the film itself to realise that there really were dirty old men in raincoats, and in Joburg too. It wasn’t just a figment of the popular imagination, and they flocked to The balcony as to a convention.

I haven’t got very far in reading the biography yet, but this reminded me to get back to it. And I’ll watch out for the song.

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3 thoughts on “Jean Genet, David Bowie and suffering

  1. Christopher Orr on said:

    One of the worst experiences of my life was playing Solange in a production of “The Maids” by Jean Genet. You could taste the death and despair thrashing about for something true and real and beautiful but settling for self-destruction and self-punishment when unfound, which was made all the worse by how in love with the play my fellow players were.

    That being said, I developed great respect for women walking in high heels. I am also an ugly, ugly woman.

  2. Steve Hayes on said:

    Now “The maids” is a Genet play I am unfamilar with. I’ll have to try and read it some time.

  3. nic paton on said:

    Jean Genie, lives on his back
    Jean Genie, loves chimney stacks
    He’s outrageous, he screams and he balls,
    Jean Genie, let yourself go, oh oh oh… [Take it away Mick Ronson]

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