White conceives Genet, socially

– Genet by Giacometti

The end of this gloomy period [1948-1955, between the novels and the plays] came when Genet made two discoveries. He met the sculptor Alberto Giacometti, and by 1955 the two men had become inseparable. Genet wrote a brilliant essay about Giacometti, a man above or beyond all vanity, who lived for his work and accepted his common humanity. Giacometti provided Genet with an image of how to grow old if not gracefully at least fiercely and with integrity. This encounter was seconded by a near mystical experience Genet had in a train, when he was seated opposite a repellent little man. Genet felt in a literal sense an exchange of souls back and forth between himself and this miserable specimen – and this exchange revealed to him that he, Genet, was not a singular, extraordinary being but in fact someone much like everyone else. This realisation in turn directed Genet toward the theatre. Whereas fiction can induct a reader into the strange mental world of an eccentric writer, the theatre reports dialogue and displays action, devoid of all commentary, before an audience acutely aware of itself as a group. Theatre is a social form of art and depends on a social conception of the individual.

– Edmund White, his “Introduction” to The Selected Writings of Jean Genet, The Ecco Press, New Jersey, 1993, pp. vii-xvi, p. xiv