.Masks. Mirrors. Symbols. Rituals, dreams and trances…
Jean Genet’s The Blacks is constructed of two simultaneous plays within the play, one performed on stage, the other out in the wings. When the lights come up, several couples are discovered turning to a minuet. They break off on becoming aware of the audience and are introduced by their spokesman, one Archibald Wellington, who explains with icy politeness that, in deference to the audience present, his friends will enact a drama of Black behavior as whites envision it to be.
…Georges Bataille:The works of M. Jean Genet are composed of stories of horrifying vulgarity, but these stories are always set in a framework of subtle reflection, which sets their vulgarity to the account of a despairing meditation on the nature of being; of a meditation, that is, on the divine, on sanctity, on sovereign power. This aspect of the matter, in the hands of a writer who is also a thief, does not escape the accusation of buffoonery, of shameless provocation, and yet, in the analyses of M. Sartre which take their point of departure from it, is to be found the depth of a theology released from its narrow bonds and brought to terms with the aggressive coldness of atheist existentialism as it exists in France. Perhaps, indeed, there is no more in the theory of Evil as the myth of theologians themselves bound up with the idea of landed property than a facade behind which M. Sartre has for once discovered the possibility of speaking—without even knowing it—in theological terms. Read More:http://criticaltheory-download-ebooks.blogspot.com/2011/05/georges-bataille-on-jean-paul-sartre-on.htmla
Thereupon, with many false starts and outbreaks of their personalities and concerns, the company unfolds a pageant in which a white woman is raped and murdered. Thus the Blacks earn the punishment which their white masters have decided to advance to mete out to them. To heighten the effect, this play within a play is performed around a catalfaque which, we are assured with much circumstantial detail, contains the body of the murdered white woman, transported hence in a luxury car for the occasion.
Now it is clear that our Black hosts cannot take this charade seriously, however hard they may try out of deference to our known prejudices. There is no body, there is no murder, and when the “whites” descend from their safe premises to administer justice in the “steaming jungle,” it is they who expire, apparently by prearrangement: one of them has been heard, early in the evening, rehearsing his death speech. It is a comment on the whites’ understanding of the benevolent demise of colonialism.
Re-visiting the experience in my head, I cannot help connecting images of his friends and lovers with the themes of his novels. As Leo Bersani, first generation queer theorist asked: “Is the rectum a grave?” there seems to be an endless inversion in Genets pleasure, an creepy fetishism of death which narcistically mirrors itself in the dark depths of the anus, the unreproductive organ per se. Especcially the gossip about Genets lover Abdulla Bentage, a half-German and half-Algerian circus-performer, who was a brilliant dancer on the rope, until he dropped not only one, but two times, before Genet left him. I do not know if Genet left him because he found Abdullah was not a “good enough” performer, or because he was frightened to lose him. However, Abdullah killed himself after Genet left him, while the latter fell in love with a young Racecar-driver, another dangerous living´ queer. Read More:http://www.catch-fire.com/2011/01/the-uncanny-miracle-of-jean-genet-notes-on-the-genet-exhibition-in-the-gay-museum-berlin/a
At the same time, it is also clear that this inept drama- the performers who are vivid “out of character” become wooden as “actors”- is introduced not only to entertain us but to divert us from what is taking place elsewhere. And that is the off-stage within a play. A messenger named Edgar Alas Newport News- the names in the play are all wicked parodies of the white man’s concept of Black nometure-Felicity Trollop Pardon, Adelaide Bobo, etc.-keeps running in with word of a trial.
A traitor has been caught, there are cryptic asides about the Black learning to take responsibility for his own justice, eyes are rolled at the audience, there is a good deal of shushing. Then, as the on-stage play is approaching its climax in the jungle, word comes that justice has been carried out. All crowd around the messenger, who affirms that it is so and adds that “another” has been appointed in “his” place and is “on his way.” The masks are forgotten, various people start to wander off, remarking that they have jobs to do.
But, then they bethink themselves of the audience sitting there all agog and decide that the flummery had better be carried out to the end: “as we could not allow the Whites to be present at the deliberation… that does not concern them, and as, in order to cover up , we have to fabricate the only one that does not concern them.”
It is at this point that Genet’s trap is set to snap. When someone throws up a screen, we believe instinctively that it is designed to hide something. And when we penetrate a subterfuge, we believe insticntively that what we have come upon is real. It is not easy to remember thatGenet is a liar . But our hosts have told us several times that they are performing not what they are but what we believe them to be.
One night Jean Genet took too many Nembutals and danced in a pink negligée for Hilliard and three other Panthers. A French male translator who was present was so sickened by the spectacle that he prefers not to be named, but Hilliard himself, according to Angela Davis, felt that Genet was communicating something serious about sexual identity and its flexibility. Whatever Genet may have been up to, this well-substantiated event reveals that at least once he indulged in the camp transvestitism he had so admired and written about.
Kate Millett published her groundbreaking feminist study Sexual Politics at this time as well, in which she cites Genet’s Our Lady of the Flowers as a feminist work since it shows that “femininity” is not a biological reality but a social role anyone can assume, including a man. Hèline Cixous, the French feminist, has gone so far as to pinpoint Genet as virtually the only modern writer, male or female, with a true feminist consciousness. Genet himself never commented on these writers….
…When asked whether his homosexuality helped him to become a revolutionary, Genet replied:
One is not a revolutionary just because one is a homosexual. What I mean to say is that there are some homosexuals who wish to affirm their difference and their special quality, and this need leads them to unmask the arbitrary character of the system in which they live. But there are others who wish to pass unnoticed and to blend into the system, therefore strengthening the system.
Let us say that homosexuality should lead the homosexual to indict the system; but, in reality, the system is a source of so much humiliation, fear and panic, and is often far stronger, that it forces a homosexual to dissemble and to bow down. When a pederast dyes his hair blue, he is able to launch a revolutionary programme by himself; but when, after dyeing his hair blue, he beefs up his breasts with hormones and goes to live with a man, he is merely parodying the system. He is keeping up appearances and not challenging anything at all. Society is amused. He becomes a kind of curiosity, which the system is quick to digest. Read More:http://www.ralphmag.org/BB/black-panthers.html