French and Francophone Language and Literature | Modern Languages | Modern Literature


Each of the five plays by Jean Genet performed before his death in 1986 exists in more than one published version.2 Critics have discussed the differences between the various published versions of each play3 with the exception of Les nègres: the drama commissioned by Raymond Rouleau, first published by Marc Barbezat in 1958, first performed in a production by Roger Blin at the Thèâtre de Lutèce in Paris in 1959, and published in a revised edition the following year.

Why have the changes Genet made to Les nègres remained undiscussed? Perhaps the attention of critics, like that of the audience described by Bernard Frechtman, Genet's American translator, has been diverted by the ceremony at the heart of the drama (Frechtman 5). Could a study of the changes Genet made to the play lead to a better understanding of ambiguity in Les nègres? When Genet "cleaned up" the text in the late 1950s, "suppressing" everything, as Blin recalls he did, that "didn't work" (White 431), did the dividing line between the staged and the real in his complex work so intensely concerned with difference become less or more black and white?


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