December 29, 2010

Author Interviews and Other Police Procedures

From a 1985 BBC interview with Jean Genet, filmed not long before his death. Watch how Genet's performance deconstructs one of the institutions of the "literature" industry -- the author interview -- to reveal its complicity with another practice of power-knowledge in the carceral continuum, the police interrogation.

Here is the transcript for this segment of the interview:

Jean Genet: I had a dream last night. I dreamed that the technicians for this film revolted. Assisting with the arrangement of the shots, the preparation of a film, they never have the right to speak. Now why is that? And I thought they would be daring enough – since we were talking yesterday about being daring – to chase me from my seat, to take my place. And yet they don’t move. Can you tell me how they explain that?

Nigel Williams: Yes. Uh… How they…?

JG: How they explain that. Why they don’t come and chase me away, and chase you away too, and then say, “What you’re saying is so stupid that I really don’t feel like going on with this work!” Ask them.

NW: Okay, sure. (He speaks to the technicians and translates Genet’s question into English.)

JG: The sound man too.

NW: (Nigel Williams asks the sound man, Duncan Fairs, who answers that he doesn’t have much to say at the moment, that the people who work every day lose their sense of objective judgment about what they’re doing and remain prisoners of their personal world. He adds that the technicians always have something to say after the filming, but that if they spoke in front of the camera it would cost a lot of money and would be very expensive for the film production company.) Is that what interested you about your dream: disrupting the order of things? In a certain way you wanted to disrupt the order that exists in this little room?

JG: Disrupt the order of things?

NW: Yes.

JG: Of course, of course. It seems so stiff to me! I’m all alone here, and here in front of me there are one, two, three, four, five, six people. Obviously I want to disrupt the order, and that’s why yesterday I asked you to come over here. Of course.

NW: Yes, it’s like a police interrogation?

JG: There’s that, of course. I told you – is the camera rolling? Good. I told you yesterday that you were doing the work of a cop, and you continue to do it, today too, this morning. I told you that yesterday and you’ve already forgotten it, because you continue to interrogate me just like the thief I as thirty years ago was interrogated by the police, by a whole police squad. And I’m on the hot seat, alone, interrogated by a bunch of people. There is a norm on one side, a norm where you are, all of you: two, three, four, five, six, seven, and also the editors of the film and the BBC, and then there’s an outer margin where I am, where I am marginalized. And if I’m afraid of entering the norm? Of course I’m afraid of entering the norm, and if I’m raising my voice right now, it’s because I’m in the process of entering the norm, I’m entering English homes, and obviously I don’t like it very much. But I’m not angry at you who are the norm, I’m angry at myself because I agreed to come here. And I really don’t like it very much at all.

NW: But your books are taught in the schools, right here in England.

JG: Oh! What are you talking about?

NW: It’s true. I myself studied Genet at the university.

JG: Hmmm.

NW: Do you like that?

JG: There’s both a feeling of vanity.. and at the same time it’s very unpleasant. Of course, there is this double… this double imperative almost. Is the camera rolling?

NW: Yes, it’s rolling.

JG: Good. Ask me questions then, since the system says that I’m the one who’s supposed to interrogated.


Full transcript here. H/t.

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