chapter  9
20 Pages

Out of Palestine: Jean Genet’s Shooting Stars

WithBRUNO CHAOUAT

Jean Genet’s epic memoir of the Palestinian revolution, Un captif amoureux,1 appeared twenty three years ago, in 1986, the year of the author’s death. It was only a few years after the massacre of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila (1982) by a Maronite Christian militia, arguably with the compliance of Israeli military authorities.2 The book appeared a few years after Genet’s brief account of the massacre published in the Revue d’études palestiniennes3 under the title of “Quatre heures à Chatila.” It is worth noting that 1986 is also just a few years after the attacks against the synagogue of the rue Copernic and a Jewish restaurant in Paris that occurred as a ricochet of the Arab-Israeli confl ict in France.4 Genet’s book, divided into two sections, “Souvenirs I” and “Souvenirs II,” evokes the author’s experience in the Palestinian refugee camps in 1970, 1971 and 1972. The year 1970 marked King Hussein’s brutal expulsion of Palestinians from Jordan, an event known as “Black September.” The year 1972 marked the year of the assassination of eleven Israeli athletes in Munich by a Palestinian terrorist group named after this event, “Black September.” Genet’s Palestinian memories are intertwined with memories of the author’s stay among the Black Panthers, who hosted him in 1970. Black Panthers and Palestinians seem to be interchangeable in Genet’s Weltanschauung. Oppressed by the white or colonial power, they respond with transgression, style, intimidation and, ultimately, terror. Palestinians and Black Panthers, not unlike the poet-thief, are tropes for “nomadism” and subversion of the Law.5