The Criminal Child offers the first English translation of a key early work by Jean Genet, as well as a selection of Genet’s finest essays, including his celebrated piece on the art of Alberto Giacometti.
... intimate and astounding essays ... His beautiful, lyrical language is almost like poetry, and never fails to engage as he shares personal stories or observations on culture ... After finishing The Criminal Child, readers might be ignited, suddenly viewing their flaws differently, as inspiration to become something greater.
[Genet's] argument (safeguard rebelliousness in children) demands readers to see that what is acutely reasoned coheres despite his radical storytelling. Genet’s multifaceted and wildly original aesthetic is embodied in associative takes and close reads ... Also enthralling are reflections on the inner void, queer life, disease, and death ('Get up! Go die!'); a lush conversational poem to his tightrope-walker lover; and a zigzag inquiry into sculptor Giacometti’s oeuvre.
It’s in the act itself of evil, in the guts it takes to deploy violence on social norms, where Genet discovers the most beautiful moments in humanity. Anything less can’t achieve the lyricism he seeks in art or life, a burden he carries on his shoulders. He finds mimesis of darkness in craft hypocritical, though, unable to go beyond superficial reproductions of the culture’s seedy silos ... What the collection lacks is a deeper understanding of the artist’s life beyond the letters, despite immediately encountering his aesthetic and sociopolitical ethos. There’s little context leading into the pieces, which could leave readers struggling to locate historical referents ... It left this reader wanting to know when Genet had written his fragments—before, during, or after his novels and plays. On the other hand, understanding Genet’s reclusive penchant, and his desire to not teach but inflame the reader, perhaps this is a wink to the cloak of mystery.