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Our Lady of the Flowers Paperback – January 12, 1994


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reissue edition (January 12, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802130135
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802130136
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Novel by Jean Genet, written while he was in prison for burglary and published in 1944 in French as Notre-Dame des fleurs. The novel and the author were championed by many contemporary writers, including Jean-Paul Sartre and Jean Cocteau, who helped engineer a pardon for Genet. A wildly imaginative fantasy of the Parisian underworld, the novel tells the story of Divine, a male prostitute who consorts with thieves, pimps, murderers, and other criminals and who has many sexual adventures. Written in lyrical, dreamlike prose, the novel affirms a new moral order, one in which criminals are saints, evil is glorified, and conventional taboos are freely violated. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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The introduction by Sartre is great, albeit given to clear personal interests.
Ryan Mease
It's very Catholic but the sensuous rites of the Church are stripped of religion, and reapplied to the secular world.
Mr. D. P. Jay
In this book he presents us with a web of characters that can only reach mythical preportions.
Stalwart Kreinblaster

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

86 of 95 people found the following review helpful By The Wingchair Critic on April 23, 2003
Format: Paperback
Jean Genet's seminal 'Our Lady Of The Flowers' (1943) is generally considered to be his greatest novel by establishment critics, probably because it was his first.

The first draft was written while Genet was incarcerated in a French prison; when the manuscript was discovered and destroyed by officials, Genet, still a prisoner, immediately set about writing it again. It isn't difficult to understand how and why Genet was able to reproduce the novel under such circumstances, because 'Our Lady Of The Flowers' is nothing less than a mythic recreation of Genet's past and then-present history.

Combining memories with facts, fantasies, speculations, irrational dreams, tender emotion, empathy, and philosophical insights, Genet probably made his isolation bearable by retreating into a world not only of his own making, but one over which he had total control.

The imprisoned narrator "Jean," who may or may not be identical with the author, masturbates regularly; like a perpetual motion machine, his fantasies fuel his writing and his writing spurs on his fantasies in turn.

Nothing illustrates this more than the brief scene in which self-sustaining "Jean" describes an act of auto-fellatio. "Jean" is not only the serpent that eats its tail but becomes a small, circular, self - imbibing universe all his own. A motto attributed to the alchemists could be the narrator's own: "Every man his own wife."

Though the narrative is not the primary focus of this or any of Genet's novels, most responsible critics have failed to remark on the fact that the narrative of 'Our Lady Of The Flowers' is the least compelling of any found in his five major novels.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Stalwart Kreinblaster on December 13, 2004
Format: Paperback
Jean Genet is surely one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century - not to mention one of the greatest dreamers. In this book he presents us with a web of characters that can only reach mythical preportions. And, interestingly enough, he reveals that the only reason for their creation is for his own pleasure. So the book becomes like a walk through Genet's subconcious, in which we meet different aspects of the total personality that is Jean Genet. The book is like a dream and throughout it we are confronted with monsters, saints, nuns, prison guards, and the most secret of desires. Genet is the only author I have read who is capable of opening himself so completely - and we do get the feeling that this is written for his own pleasure - this makes it all the more enjoyable for us to read!
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25 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
Although I first came across Genet reading "The Thief's Journal", I believe this to be his greatest work (if not the greatest work of modern fiction, better than "Ulysses"). His writing lyrically flows and gives the work an organic unity. No other work, except "Swann's Way" by Proust, has the creative control and beautiful images Genet infuses in his work. A recommended read for all people. A shimmeringly beautiful work of fiction which makes the underworld and the sexual outlaw sublime. (Also, I'd recommend "City of Night" by John Rechy.)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By loux@mindspring.com on January 10, 1998
Format: Paperback
one of the most brilliant layouts of the psychology of the criminal mind i have read... to actually understand the movements of thought of a boy gone bad and to see the inevitable run of the crime. and to share in the mental and emotional movement is undeniably
shared in this first person narrative account.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By N. Turner on November 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
Jean Genet's seminal novel "Our Lady of the Flowers" is a glorious celebration of transvestites, lowlifes, prostitutes and murderers in the underworld of 1940s Paris. Our narrator, Jean, who may or may not be Genet himself, regales the reader from prison with stories he's created about fellow inmates between fits of furious masturbation.

The story begins with the death of Divine, a notorious drag queen and inmate of Jeans. From there Jean goes into the story of the recently canonized Divine, from "her" beginnings as the boy Culafroy to her living in an apartment overlooking the french cemetery Montmartre with her pimp Darling, and a young boy dubbed "Our Lady of the Flowers", whom recently committed a murder.

Our Lady is a brilliant exploration of the darker side of life. But naturally, a novel based around a perverted narrator inventing lives for people in order to help him masturbate isnt exactly for everyone. Id call it a healthy mix of Celine's stylistic sensibilities with Battaile's sexual overtones. An early influence on writers like Bukowski. And the 30 page, raving endorsement from Sartre in the preface should entice the existentialist crowd. So, give it a shot. You'll either be a little grossed out or particularly enthralled.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By "grimson@teleport.com" on October 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
Certainly one of the greatest lyrical novels of all time. Takes the ideas of Sade, Baudelaire, Burroughs, Robbe-Grillet, Rimbaud, whoever, to a beautiful flowering of evil in which the human body is truly LIVED in and nothing is shirked. One sometimes underrated heir is Dennis Cooper ["Closer," "Try"]. Intense, incredibly shameless and intelligent, this is the novel that made Genet's name. Start here.
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