This is the best book I have ever read. Every word is meant and specific. It is Genet's last book and it is a distillation of his remarkably authentic life. At the moment I'm reading it like a Bible although the heresy of that statement is probably to 'Prisoner of Love'. Each encounter he describes is complete but together they build into a profound transmission of his experience of Palestine.
It follows episodically. Interweaving Genet's prolonged visit to Palestine during the early 1970's with his return trip a decade later and also his involvement with the Black Panther's in the U.S.. I think the jumping to the Panther's is understandable for Genet but initially seems peculiar. However his writing on race in the States is precise and relevant. The book documents a personal search for an archetypal image he experienced during the conflict as well as a record of an almost forgotten period of the Palestinian resistance.
Genet shows through this book, I think conclusively, that the way to love people is not through adopting their cause as your own as many people do today. Rather it is by being with them in solidarity as yourself with integrity, and bearing witness to their struggle. Somehow he captures the nameless emotions of people in revolution in his record of everyday life lived in the presence of death. His love for and of the Palestinians includes being unflinchingly honest but never cruel or partisan.
As he wrote he was approaching his own inevitable death (he never saw the book published) and that lends an intensity. Maybe meant he felt able to finally write about his experiences with full depth of empathy and compassion? Ultimately this is a wise book that never states it's wisdom but shows it page by page. Genet's own revolutionary life found its complement in the Palestinian revolution. It is a profound love story.
One person found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
I'll be honest: it has been a few years since I read The Prisoner of Love. I decided to write this review after I found that nobody had done so. It is my hope that, should you have decided not to purchase this fine book, that you might, out of curiosity, read this review and change your mind. In which case I would be honoured to have done what little I could in getting more people to read Jean Genet's masterpiece, The Prisoner of Love. I am not going to go into details, partly because I am not literate enough to do justice to the book and also because I want you to read the book like I did: with very little knowledge beforehand and experience it as completely as you can. Therefore know that The Prisoner of Love recounts a period of Jean Genet's life that he spent in the Palestinian refugee camps in the early seventies. Know that it is a masterly account of the various threads that converged at that moment in history amongst those displaced people. At it's heart is a romanticism that is aching in its sincerity. Genet is a poet and it shows with every word in this book. It flows and evokes feelings without ever being manipulative. I bought this book because I had read a review extolling it's virtues. I started the first chapter thinking it would be a political book, that it might be a chore to read, I finished the first sentence and I was no longer thinking those things. I finished the book and I had that feeling - you know that feeling? The feeling that you have that you had a great time, a great experience and it was deeply personal, and it was over and you wished that it wasn't but that you knew had to end because nothing in this world can last forever, and there's regret and a deep sadness and you move on, grateful for the memories? Something like that, something more like that is how I felt at the end. I cannot tell you enough good things about this book. I cannot make you read it. But if you do read it, then maybe, just maybe, you too might be The Prisoner of Love.
23 people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
This is a unique book. I do not consider it a memoir, nor a description of a specific experience. It is more of various unrelated thoughts and feelings that were gathered in a book about a specific period of time and place, but which were related many times in the book to other events in other places in the world and different period of times. The book is unique for many reasons - for me at least: first of all, you can feel the honesty in the words of this book. Genet remembers his years with the Palestinian Fedayeen during the toughest period in Jordan, you feel how much he cares about them and how much he loves specific symbols of their lives. Second, this book talks about a period of time in Jordan which is not taught in history, not discussed (in Jordan at least at the time being) and which I think was exposed to many attempts to erase from memory.
However, because these thoughts are not organized, you feel the book is not focused. It takes you from one place to another and from a specific time to another, but not smoothly. Another point is that the language of the book/or the Arabic translation of it is not that good. There are too many mistakes in the book, but still, this does not take away the beauty of it.