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Screens


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A: Jean Genet Pf: 1961, Berlin; 1966, Paris Pb: 1961; rev. 1976 Tr: 1963 G: Drama in 17 scenes; French prose S: Algeria, 1954–61 C: 76m, 21f, extrasSaïd is an Arab so poor that he can afford only Leila, a wife so ugly that her face has to be covered by a hood. He visits the whorehouse, while she expresses her longings to a pair of trousers. To escape the drudgery of working for his colonial boss and the mockery of his fellow workers over his ugly wife, Saïd plans to go to mainland France. He steals money and is arrested. Appearing before an eccentric Cadi, Saïd fails to persuade the judge that he should be imprisoned. Leila too is caught stealing from other houses. Saïd's fellow workers complain to their bosses about him, but the colonialists regard all Arabs as untrustworthy. Arab rebels set fire to a colonialist's orange grove. A coarse Lieutenant in the Foreign Legion prepares to suppress the revolt, and a Dutch colonialist plants man traps round his property. An Arab woman is shot by the Dutchman's son, and, from the dead, she curses the colonialists. Saïd's mother, helping a legionnaire with his water-bottle, strangles him. Under the eyes of the dead, the Lieutenant is killed. Saïd is shot for betraying Arab soldiers, and Leila dies of hunger and cold. Saïd is not admitted to the ranks of the dead, but lives on ‘in a song’.

A: Jean Genet Pf: 1961, Berlin; 1966, Paris Pb: 1961; rev. 1976 Tr: 1963 G: Drama in 17 scenes; French prose S: Algeria, 1954–61 C: 76m, 21f, extras

A cast list of some 100 characters and a playing time of several hours makes The Screens a notable contribution to modern theatre. Its staging, using masks and movable screens, some of them painted by actors on stage, creates an innovative style of presentation. Its grotesque depiction of both French colonial oppression and Arab resistance delayed its performance in France and caused violent audience reaction thereafter.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Jean Genet (1910—1986) French novelist, poet, and dramatist


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