Hallowed Ground: Patti Smith on Visiting the Prison of Jean Genet’s Dreams

Longreads

We were entering a military zone and hit a checkpoint. The driver’s identity card was inspected and after an interminable stretch of silence we were ordered to get out of the car. Two officers searched the front and back seats, finding a switchblade with a broken spring in the glove box. That can’t be so bad, I thought, but as they knocked on the trunk our driver became markedly agitated. Dead chickens? Maybe drugs. They circled around the car, and then asked him for the keys. He threw them in a shallow ravine and bolted but was swiftly wrestled to the ground. I glanced sidelong at Fred. He betrayed no emotion and I followed his lead.

They opened the trunk. Inside was a man who looked to be in his early 30s curled up like a slug in a rusting conch shell. He seemed terrified as they poked him with…

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