Our Lady of the Flowers

by Jean Genet

Other authorsJean-Paul Sartre (Introduction), Bernard Frechtman (Translator)
Hardcover, 1963




New York, Grove Press [1963]


Jean Genet's first, and arguably greatest, novel was written while he was in prison. As Sartre recounts in his introduction, Genet penned this work on the brown paper which inmates were supposed to use to fold bags as a form of occupational therapy. The masterpiece he managed to produce under those difficult conditions is a lyrical portrait of the criminal underground of Paris and the thieves, murderers and pimps who occupied it. Genet approached this world through his protagonist, Divine, a male transvestite prostitute. In the world of Our Lady of the Flowers, moral conventions are turned on their head. Sinners are portrayed as saints and when evil is not celebrated outright, it is at least viewed with a benign indifference. Whether one finds Genet's work shocking or thrilling, the novel remains almost as revolutionary today as when it was first published in 1943 in a limited edition, thanks to the help of one its earliest admirers, Jean Cocteau.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Niecierpek
This book was both interesting and not. Interesting as written in its entirety by Genet serving time for theft in a prison cell in Paris in 1943. It was written on paper used by the prisoners to make bags, and then re-written from memory after the whole manuscript was confiscated and destroyed.
As for what the novel is about, we hit the un-interesting part, or at least uninteresting for me since it has attracted a lot of attention since it was published. It is hailed as a masterpiece of its genre, and the preface is written by no one less than Jean Paul Sartre. Satre seemed to be fascinated by the contradictions there: feminine/masculine, poetic/gutter-like, the bottom, but sublime.

The book is about Genet, a homosexual and a thief, a drag queen, portrayed as a feminine, Divine, and her/his lover Darling, a pimp. The whole story is told in sometimes very flowery, sometimes coarse, and sometimes poetic language. Lots of it, if not everything, is Genet's homosexual fantasies.
It just didn't interest me enough to finish it.
… (more)
LibraryThing member NaggedMan
This edition worth having for Sartre's lengthy, thoughtful and moving introduction


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