Jean Genet: Flanerie, Mimesis, and Journalism
In the Storyteller, Walter Benjamin writes, ‘traces of the storyteller cling to the story the way the handprints of the potter cling to the clay vessel’ (92). In this lamenting essay on the question of a vanished art form, Benjamin’s profound thinking on the communicative gesture of art connects at once the sensuous faculty of touch with history of nature and nature of history. However, there is in this passage, a deeper insight, a philosophical one, of nature’s role in subjectivization, informed by a mimetic connection that the nature of ‘culture industry,’ to steal a phrase from Adorno, today has made it to disappear in the ‘phantasmagoria’ of the object driven world of modern metropolises, traces of which can still be found in the gait of modern day vagabonds, criminals, and flaneurs who roam around the vortex of the city in search of their lost subjectivity. Benjamin himself was a flaneur roaming on the streets of Paris recording the history of modern capitalism. His most promising, unfinished book to come, The Arcades Project which eventually came, traces the development of the modern city, Paris from its ‘ refuse’ of gutters to suburbs. When Benjamin conceived and began to work on The Arcades, sitting in Bibliotheque Nationale, Jean Genet, his contemporary, another nomadic figure perhaps would be serving prison sentences in Paris on accounts of various thefts and criminal activities.