Genet translations

October 7, 2010

The Genet Translations

Mark Sptzer's Genet Translations

One of the things waiting from me when I got back from a recent trip to Washington, D.C. was this omnious-looking volume. I knew the guy whose name was on the spine — University of Central Arkansas writing professor and managing editor of the Dada-anachro literary zine The Exquisite Corpus — so I asked him to explain himself. Here’s what he said:

“In 1993 I sold my van for $600 and flew off to France to translate the poems of France’s most infamous poet-thief because the estate of Jean Genet indicated that they would be open to publishing an entire book of my translations. I ended up living at the Bohemian bookstore Shakespeare & Co. in Paris for almost three years as Writer in Residence, translating French criminals and misanthropes. During that time I worked with Edmund White, the world expert on Genet, and a number of other authorities on the subject. But when two good presses requested permission from the estate to publish my work, the estate denied to authorize them. Years of lawyers and arbitrators ensued while I translated two posthumous plays by Genet in order to see what they had to say. I had publishers request permission to publish these works as well, but they also got shot down. So in 2000, I posted my translations on the Internet for free, and that’s where they remained for ten years. In 2010 I was invited to take part in an international conference in Paris on Genet and censorship, so I decided it was high time to put out a pirated edition of the poetry and plays (which is not uncommon in the literary history of Genet) that had been censored for 17 years, since I had a publisher who was interested in making the work available. Polemic Press was formed: the idea being that the book would be given away for free (since it is an “educational tool” for scholarship, protected under the Fair Use terms of US Copyright Law, title 17), but shipping and handling would be $22. Hence, the book is being published through print-on-demand technology, which makes it quick and easy to produce and easy to make disappear if legal problems should arise. These poems represent a portrait of the artist in his journey from idealistic visionary poet to renowned playwright. Some of this work has never been seen in English, and they’re the best damn translations of Genet on the planet.”

To order a copy of Mr. Spitzer’s latest outrage against decency send a PayPal payment of $22 for shipping and handling to (orders outside the U.S. should send $33). We suspect that this is a limited time offer.

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