Prefer the Present
"No matter: with words, the Other reappears."
"Qui est là? Qui est là?"
"Ché Coco, Ché Coco."
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A chicken, boat, bird, dart or aeroplane such as schoolboys make out of bits of paper–if you unfold them carefully they become a page from a newspaper or a blank sheet of paper again. For a long time I’d been vaguely uneasy, but I was amazed when I realized that my life–I mean the events of my life, spread out flat in front of me–was nothing but a blank sheet of paper which I’d managed to fold into something different. Perhaps I was the only one who could see it in three dimensions, as a mountain, a precipice, a murder or a fatal accident.
What might have seemed a heroic deed was only a pretence, a good or bad imitation that unobservant eyes took for the thing itself. Such eyes, seeing the scar of a self-inflicted flesh wound on my arm, transform it into the evidence of some romantic adventure, complete with a seduced wife and a jealous husband. If I don’t mention his name it only shows my integrity, my respect for the beloved, and my magnanimity in sparing the wronged husband’s pride.
My whole life was made up of unimportant trifles cleverly blown up into acts of daring.
When I saw that my life was a sort of intaglio or relief in reverse, its hollows became as terrible as abysses. In the process known as damascening the patterns are engraved on a steel plate and inlaid with gold. In me there is no gold.
Genet, Jean. 1986. Prisoner of Love. Trans. Barbara Bray. New York: New York Review Books. 2003. 171-2.
[Originally published in French under the title Un captif amoureux, by Éditions Gallimard.]