Covering Genet

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While writing Monday’s post I came across this series of new cover designs for the most recent Faber editions of Genet’s novels. I hadn’t seen these before but I liked the way they look as a set. Jonathan Pelham is the designer. At first glance the covers infringe one of my personal rules for cover design, that you should try and create something that couldn’t easily be used on another book by a different author; this is more of a challenge when a design is minimal or tending towards abstraction as these are. But Genet’s covers from British publishers have veered from the featureless (the Anthony Blond hardbacks of the 1960s) to the bizarrely random (the 1971 Penguin edition of Miracle of the Rose with a detail from Max Ernst’s Europe After the Rain—see below), so anything that looks this smart and consistent is a plus. I still like the series of paperbacks that Panther published in the early 1970s (also below) but they only did three of the books, with the Rubens typeface being a carry over from the Grove Press hardbacks designed by Roy Kuhlman. The new editions from Faber also feature new introductions by Neil Bartlett (Funeral Rites), Terry Hands (Miracle of the Rose), Jon Savage (Querelle of Brest), and Ahdaf Soueif (The Thief’s Journal).

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Querelle de Brest

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Querelle de Brest (1947) by Jean Genet. Cover design by Jean Cocteau.

This weekend’s viewing was Fassbinder’s Querelle (1982) which is marvellous in its new Blu-ray transfer, and a great improvement on the muddy picture of the earlier DVD release. The film is still only the briefest sketch of Genet’s novel (although Genet biographer Edmund White enjoyed it) but I like the overheated atmosphere, the phallic set designs, Franco Nero (hey, it’s Django Gay!), and the film as a whole is a fitting memorial to Brad Davis, everyone’s favourite sweating matelot. So in honour of all that, here’s a small collection of Querellerie past and present.

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Querelle de Brest was published in a limited edition of 525 copies illustrated throughout by Jean Cocteau who didn’t avoid the pornographic details. Even though copies were seized by the authorities, and the author fined, Cocteau’s involvement did little to harm his public reputation, something that’s impossible to imagine happening elsewhere. A few of the illustrations follow below, many more of the series can be found scattered across various websites.

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