Blogs & Columns
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The Blitz book club: Querelle de Brest

Querelle is a murderous sailor. He is pridefully beautiful and quarrelsome. He might emerge from an alleyway, cum stains worn as proud as medals on his sailor pants, from the men who jacked off as they sucked his big cock. He is beyond the usual as he has been shaped (or left shapeless) by his criminal acts. Criminality is always a temptation when a sailor sets foot on land, because the sea is free and land is governed by laws that restrain. Querelle is a marvel among criminals; he is both boldly masculine and not afraid to allow his feminine side to come through. Though capable of compassion, he has carried out acts that most people would deem vile, though Querelle can’t say as much. 

The story frames itself as the ship, Le Vengeur, helmed by a lonely obsessive lieutenant, is harboured in the port of Brest. On land, Querelle is the eye in a whirlwind of lust and intrigue. There is the sad aging Madame and her giving husband who tend an ill-famed brothel. There is the honourable cop who takes pride in his duties but doesn’t mind a blowjob every now and then. We also have the various wide-eyed youth, who feel important due to their seedy associations.

This novel by the astonishingly keen Jean Genet is exquisite. You would be hard pressed to find characters whose psyches are so carefully and ingeniously crafted.