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Jean Genet’s debut novel Our Lady of the Flowers, which is often considered to be his masterpiece, was written entirely in the solitude of a prison cell. A semi- autobiographical account of one man’s journey through the Paris demi-monde, dubbed “the epic of masturbation” by no less a figure than Jean-Paul Sartre, the novel’s exceptional value lies in its exquisite ambiguity.
It is awesome, perhaps the finest novel I have ever read in my life. It literally sent shivers through me, the sheer beauty of the language, the exquisite perversity of the imagination, the incredible grasp of motivationit is his most tightly plotted, best organized, most accessible novel. It is a wonder.” Dotson Rader
France’s master of the absurd explores racial prejudice and stereotypes using the framework of a play within a play. The New York Times hailed The Blacks as “one of the most original and stimulating evenings Broadway or Off Broadway has to offer,” while Newsweek raved that Genet’s plays “constitute a body of work unmatched for poetic and theatrical power.”
“Genet’s investigation of the color black begins where most plays of this burning theme leave off. . . . This vastly gifted Frenchman uses shocking words and images to cry out at the pretensions and injustices of our world.” —Howard Taubman, The New York Times
In the midst of a city ravaged by violent rebellion, a brothel caters to the elaborate role-playing fantasies of men from all walks of life. A gas company worker pretends to be a bishop while, in the next room, another customer dons a judge’s robe to savor the erotic pleasures of meting out justice—and punishment. These perverse costumed masquerades parody the larger, more violent dramas of the outside world. But as the anarchic political struggle threatens to topple society, even the revolutionaries come to believe that illusions are preferable to reality.
A poet, novelist, playwright, and outlaw, Jean Genet helped define French existential theater of the mid-twentieth century. Deeply influential and widely acclaimed, Genet’s The Balcony presents an unrelentingly profound and critical reflection of contemporary society.
The Thief’s Journal is perhaps Jean Genet’s most authentically biographical novel, personifying his quest for spiritual glory through the pursuit of evil. Writing in the intensely lyrical prose style that is his trademark, the man Jean Cocteau dubbed France’s Black Prince of Letters” here reconstructs his early adult yearstime he spent as a petty criminal and vagabond, traveling through Spain and Antwerp, occasionally border hopping across the rest of Europe, always one step ahead of the authorities
Jean Genet was one of the world’s greatest contemporary dramatists, and his last play, The Screens, is his crowning achievement. It strikes a powerful, closing chord to the formidable theatrical work that began with Deathwatch and continued, with even bolder variations, in The Maids, The Balcony, and The Blacks.
A philosophical satire of colonization, military power, and morality itself, The Screens is an epic tale of despicable outcasts whose very hatefulness becomes a galvanizing force of rebellion during the Algerian War. The play’s cast of over fifty characters moves through seventeen scenes, the world of the living breaching the world of the dead by means of shifting the screens—the only scenery—in a brilliant tour de force of spectacle and drama.
In Deathwatch, two convicts try to impress a third, who is on the verge of achieving legendary status in criminal circles. But neither realizes the lengths to which they will go to gain respect or that, in the end, nothing they can doincluding murderwill get them what they are searching for.
A major achievement . . . . Genet transforms experiences of degradation into spiritual exercises and hoodlums into bearers of the majesty of love.”Saturday Review
Genet can use a brutal phraseology that makes prison life specific and immediate. Yet through his singular sensibility, these elements are transmuted into something fragile, rare, beautiful.”The New York Times
This book recreates for the reader Genet’s magic world, one of dazzling beauty charged with novelty and excitement.”Bettina Knapp
Genet would have deserved international standing for this novel alone. . . . He succeeds to an amazing degree in creating poetry from the profoundest degradation.”The Times (London)
One of the great literary outlaws of the 20th century, Jean Genet was committed to challenging the complacent middle-class morality of his native France. His apocalyptic, pornographic, autobiographical novel “Funeral Rites is quite possibly an evil book. It is clearly a brilliant book…a seminal document in the development of one of the most important literary imaginations of our time” (The Washington Post-Times Herald).
Genet’s sensual and brutal portrait of World War II France unfolds between the poles of his grief for his lover Jean, killed in the Resistance during the liberation of Paris, and his perverse attraction to the collaborator Riton. Within this anguished account of a conflicted mind, Genet paints a grotesque carnival of soldiers, traitors, lovers, criminals, and the grimly surreal landscape of Occupied France. Elegiac, macabre, chimerical, it is a dark meditation on the mirror images of love and hate, sex and death.
“Only a handful of twentieth-century writers, such as Kafka and Proust, have as important, as authoritative, as irrevocable a voice and style.” –Susan Sontag
Jean Genet's seminal Our Lady Of The Flowers (1943) is generally considered to be his finest fictional work. 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.