Sartre and Evil: Guidelines for a Struggle

By Haim Gordon; Rivca Gordon | Go to book overview

8
Genet's Redemption from a Life of Evil

After Jean Cocteau had read some of Genet's writings, recognized his genius, and organized a petition for his pardon, Genet was released from jail, where he was serving a life sentence for repeated theft. He pretty much abandoned his previous life of theft and lived off his writings. But as these writings show, he never fully abandoned his quest to be evil. There is one major difference, however. Now this quest existed almost solely in the realm of the imaginary. Or of art. From the playings of Genet's perverse imagination, or as Sartre points out, from Genet's fantasizing while masturbating, great works of art emerged. But these works described and glorified the kingdom of Evil. Genet assumed the role of an official scribe of this kingdom. In short, Genet never turned to the Good, even when he was accepted, lauded, and applauded by the right-thinking man, that is, by the society of the Good.

Was Genet then redeemed? Or did he merely attempt to drag us all into the filth of the sticky swamp where he suffered and flourished so that we could admire, with him, the beauty of his Evil heroes? Both questions can be answered immediately by saying, Yes. But that Yes must be qualified. To understand why, let us look more closely.

According to Sartre, Genet drifted slowly from this ethics of Evil to a black aestheticism, and from this black aestheticism to being an artist. At first this drifting led to his second metamorphosis: delighting in the beauty he discerned in evil persons and situations, and expressing this beauty in haunting verse. But this metamorphosis was not yet a full redemption. To understand why, we must follow the slow development of Genet.

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Sartre and Evil: Guidelines for a Struggle
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Notes xxiii
  • Part I - Intuitively Responding to Evil 1
  • 1 - Evil and Lucidity 3
  • Notes 16
  • 2 - Unmasking Noble Evil 17
  • Notes 31
  • 3 - Bewitching Evil 33
  • Notes 47
  • 4 - Horror and Evil 49
  • Notes 62
  • Part II - The Ontology of Evil 63
  • 5 - Sartre's Ontology of Evil and the Poverty of the Social Sciences 65
  • Notes 77
  • 6 - Evil for Evil's Sake 79
  • Notes 86
  • 7 - The Consciousness of Genet: A Rejection of Fanaticism 87
  • Notes 103
  • 8 - Genet's Redemption from a Life of Evil 105
  • Notes 113
  • Part III - Evil and Society 115
  • 9 - Fighting Evil Straightforwardly 117
  • Notes 127
  • 10 - Sartre's Tone of Moral Indignation 129
  • Notes 140
  • 11 - Seriality versus Education 143
  • Notes 160
  • 12 - Passivity, Black Pride, and Evil 161
  • Notes 180
  • 13 - Passivity and the Distortion of Truth and Knowledge 183
  • Notes 198
  • 14 - Some Problems 199
  • Notes 206
  • Summary 207
  • Appendix 211
  • Selected Bibliography 227
  • Index 231
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