Friday, August 3, 2012

A Short Note on Jean Genet's Captive of Love (a bit old)

            Obviously there is a lot going on in the book, but one of the things that interested me about the book dealt with the matter of friendship.  There is a moment in the first section of the book where Genet gets into a conversation with the fedayeen.  He is asked is if he is a Marxist/  “I was rather surprised, but didn’t attach much importance either to the question or to the answer.  “Yes”, I said.  “Why?”  I was still not really interested.  Ferraj’s young face looked open and guileless.  He was smiling, but anxious to hear what I’d say.  After awhile I told him nonchalantly:  “Perhaps because I don’t believe in God.”  (113)  At this moment a colonel tries to end the conversation, but the fedayeen refuse this, and the two (Genet and the colonel have a debate upon the existence of God.)  This debate links to a conception of freedom that both are trying to express, one that links to a notion of sovereignty. 
            “When you start by putting the discussion under the aegis of God you cut the ground from under my feet—I don’t claim the patronage of anyone so grand.  And your God is all the grander because you can increase His dimensions as much as you like.  But the reason you also insisted on beginning with the seal of friendship is that even though you’re a Muslim you’ve got more faith in friendship than you have in God.  For here we all are, armed, an unbeliever among believers, and yet I’m your friend.”

            “And where does friendship came from but God?… To you, to me, to all of us this morning.  Would you be our friend if God hadn’t inspired you with friendship for us, and us with friendship for you?” (117)

             Obviously, I don’t want to get into the theological implications of such a discussion, which are not that interesting, but the notions of social structure that come up.  For Genet, the matter of importance is the friendship among men.  It is what attracts him to these various modes of rebellion.  When he makes the statement, “I am a Marxist”, he hollows it out of all its traditional meaning and links it with a form of contingency of relationships.  Whereas the colonel links the modes of friendship with the figure of God.  I would push this farther to see a discussion of whether the revolutionary community is based on a telos or end, or whether it is based on the interactions and the love that its members hold for each other.

            We can see this in the way that Genet relates a certain Marxist-Leninist belief system with a religious belief.  “The worst were the ones whose heads were full of neat but crude slogans that they unloaded on you like a ton of bricks.  The one I dreaded most was Thalami, who I believe meant to turn me into a perfect Marxist-Leninist.  The Koran had a surat for every occasion: David Thalami had a quotation from Lenin.  And he wasn’t the only one.  In the early days I told myself the revolutionaries were only young after all.” (281)  Both these modes of telos are put into relationship with each other, and are expressed within the most deadening language possible.  Genet later links them up with certain notions of the European state.  These things in effect, kill the possibility of the revolution.

            Certainly, it is difficult to argue against that fact.  Postcolonial and postrevolutionary states have really not managed escape out of this bind.  But on the other hand, it seems that Genet’s model (if we can use such a word) points to any mode of organization creating the preconditions for this.  The question becomes is there a way of thinking this question that escapes this?

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