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9781681373614

The Criminal Child

by ; ;
  • ISBN13:

    9781681373614

  • ISBN10:

    1681373610

  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2020-01-21
  • Publisher: New York Review of Books

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Supplemental Materials

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Summary

The Criminal Child offers the first English translation of a key early work by Jean Genet. In 1949, in the midst of a national debate about improving the French reform-school system, Radiodiffusion Française commissioned Genet to write about his experience as a juvenile delinquent. He sent back a piece that was a paean to prison instead of the expected horrifying exposé. Revisiting the cruel hazing rituals that had accompanied his incarceration, relishing the special argot spoken behind bars, Genet bitterly denounced any improvement in the condition of young prisoners as a threat to their criminal souls. The radio station chose not to broadcast Genet’s views.

“The Criminal Child” appears here with a selection of Genet’s finest essays, including his celebrated piece on the art of Alberto Giacometti.

Author Biography

Jean Genet (1910–1986) was born in Paris. Abandoned by his mother at seven months, he was raised in state institutions and charged with his first crime when he was ten. After spending many of his teenage years in a reformatory, Genet enrolled in the Foreign Legion, though he later deserted, turning to a life of thieving and pimping that resulted in repeated jail terms and, eventually, a sentence of life imprisonment. In prison Genet began to write—poems and prose that combined pornography and an open celebration of criminality with an extraordinary baroque, high literary style—and on the strength of this work found himself acclaimed by such literary luminaries as Jean Cocteau, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir, whose advocacy secured for him a presidential pardon in 1948. Between 1944 and 1948 Genet wrote four novels—Our Lady of the Flowers, Miracle of the Rose, Funeral Rites, and Querelle—and the scandalizing memoir A Thief's Journal. Throughout the 1950s he devoted himself to theater, writing the boldly experimental and increasingly political plays The Balcony, The Blacks, and The Screens. After a silence of some twenty years, Genet began his last book, Prisoner of Love (available as an NYRB Classic), in 1983. It was completed just before he died.

Charlotte Mandell has translated nearly fifty books from the French, including works by Guy de Maupassant, Marcel Proust, Maurice Blanchot, Jonathan Littell, and Mathias Énard. She has been awarded a translation prize from the Modern Language Association and the National Translation Award in Prose. Her translation of The Magnetic Fields by André Breton and Philippe Soupault will be published by NYRB Poets in 2020. 

Jeffrey Zuckerman’s recent translations from the French include Ananda Devi’s Eve Out of Her Ruins and The Living Days, the diaries of the Dardenne brothers, and the short stories of Hervé Guibert. He is the digital editor of Music & Literature, and his writing and translations have appeared in Best European Fiction, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Paris Review Daily, Tin House, and Vice.

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