Genet

Genet

[jen-it, juh-net]
Genet, Edmond Charles Édouard, 1763-1834, French diplomat, known as Citizen Genet. He had served as a French representative in Berlin, Vienna, and St. Petersburg before the French Revolution, and he continued in Russia until 1792, when he was expelled because of his revolutionary ardor. Sent as minister to the United States in 1793, he was met with wild acclaim by the numerous supporters of France, but President Washington, anxious to preserve U.S. neutrality in the French Revolutionary Wars, was cold to the demonstrations. Genet's efforts to raise troops to strike at Spanish Florida and to commission privateers to prey on British commerce were not approved by Washington. The President, backed by pro-British Alexander Hamilton, forbade the French privateers to use U.S. ports as bases, despite the warm public approval and the provisions of a 1778 treaty with France. Genet challenged Washington's authority by threatening to appeal to the American people, and the U.S. government demanded (1793) his recall. Before he could go back to France, his party, the Girondists, had fallen, and his return would have meant the guillotine. Washington therefore refused to allow his extradition. Genet remained in the United States and married the daughter of Gov. George Clinton of New York.

See study by H. Ammon (1973).

Genet, Jean, 1910-86, French dramatist. Deserted by his parents as an infant, Genet spent much of his early life in reformatories and prisons. Between 1940 and 1948 he wrote several autobiographical prose narratives dealing with homosexuality and crime, including Our Lady of the Flowers (tr. 1949, repr. 1963) and The Thief's Journal (tr. 1964). In 1948 he was sentenced to life imprisonment for theft, but he was pardoned through the efforts of important French writers, including Gide, Sartre, and Cocteau. Genet's first two plays, Les Bonnes (1947; tr. The Maids, 1954) and Haute Surveillance (1949; tr. Deathwatch, 1954), established him as a dramatist concerned with theater as ritual and ceremony. Considered classic examples of the theater of the absurd, his dramas portray a world of outcasts in revolt against everything that renders humans helpless, subservient, and alone. His later plays include The Balcony (tr. 1958), in which the patrons of a brothel act out their fantasies as a revolution progresses in the streets, and The Blacks (tr. 1960), a "clown show" in which black actors play the roles of their white oppressors. Other works include the play The Screens (tr. 1962) and Querelle (tr. 1974).

See his Reflections on the Theatre (tr. 1972); J.-P. Sartre, Saint Genet (1952, tr. 1963); biography by E. White, Genet (1993); and studies by R. N. Coe (1970), B. Knapp (1968, rev. ed. 1989), and H. Stewart (1989).

genet: see civet.
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