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Wednesday October 25th 2018Tim Candler9

 

     The Patron Saint of Thieves. It was back in the 1930's, not that long ago, the means of production had again fallen foul of ebullient stock markets, the bubble had burst and the great minds were saying stuff like "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." A truth so dear it can break the heart. But I guess it was the Devil who had other ideas. It was poets who took on the scent of fear, described it as a yearning for violence, the dream of an ultimate conclusion, an end to all problems. "Gosh!" I hear the plaintive call. "I thought Saint Nicholas was the Patron Saint of Repentant Thieves." Not so in Sartre's 1952 essay in which he anointed the writer and poet Jean Genet as the Patron Saint of Thieves, not of repentant thieves, but of thieves and why not. 

 

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     Genet's Journal of a Thief, as Sartre read the account of one man's experiences the 1930's, described how an act of thievery pretty much required a preparation worthy of any monk in pursuit of a higher calling. The reward, a silk handkerchief for the thief, was followed by the adulation of his peers, and in the meanwhile the victim left desolate, abused, frightened and probably angry, vengeful. In the tale it was Jean's lot to fall in love with the most violent of thieves, his love seemed to have less thought for the consequence of failure which for Jean was the threat of years in a crowded Napoleonic dungeon with nothing to write on except toilet paper. But the soul of a person, the possibility for redemption, is what a person is prepared not to do for a silk handkerchief. Sartre of course was engaged in exploring the entrails of authentic, and at least for some Genet's book had put a bit of a hole in Sartre's thesis.

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