Patti Smith Makes a Pilgrimage to French Guiana in This Exclusive Excerpt From Her New Memoir

“In 1965 I had come to New York City from South Jersey just to roam around, and nothing seemed more romantic than to write poetry in a Greenwich Village café. I finally got the courage to enter Caffè Dante on MacDougal Street. The walls were covered with printed murals of the city of Florence and scenes from The Divine Comedy. A few years later I would sit by a low window that looked out into a small alley, reading Mrabet’s The Beach Café. A young fish-seller named Driss meets a reclusive, uncongenial codger who has a café with only one table and one chair on a rocky stretch of shore near Tangier. The slow-moving atmosphere surrounding the café captivated me. Like Driss, I dreamed of opening a place of my own: the Café Nerval, a small haven where poets and travelers might find the simplicity of asylum. … Some months before our first wedding anniversary Fred told me that if I promised to give him a child he would first take me anywhere in the world. I chose Saint-Laurent du Maroni, a border town in northwest French Guiana. I had long wished to see the remains of the French penal colony where hard-core criminals were once shipped before being transferred to Devil’s Island. In The Thief’s Journal Jean Genet had written of Saint-Laurent as hallowed ground and of its inmates with devotional empathy. He had ascended the ladder toward them: reform school, petty thief, and three-time loser; but as he was sentenced, the prison he’d held in such reverence was closed, the last living inmates returned to France. Genet served his time in Fresnes Prison. Devastated, he wrote: I am shorn of my infamy. At 70, Genet was reportedly in poor health and most likely would never go to Saint-Laurent himself. I envisioned bringing him its earth and stone. Though often amused by my quixotic notions, Fred did not make light of this self-imposed task. He agreed without argument. I wrote a letter to William Burroughs, whom I had known since my early 20s. William, close to Genet and possessing his own romantic sensibility, promised to assist me in delivering the stones. …”
W – The Thief’s Journal by Jean Genet, amazon
YouTube: Patti Smith – Three Stones for Jean Genet

Bagne de Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni RELEGUES vs LIBERES

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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1 Response to Patti Smith Makes a Pilgrimage to French Guiana in This Exclusive Excerpt From Her New Memoir

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