Jean Genet

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Jean Genet
Born 19 December 1910
Paris, France
Died 15 April 1986 (aged 75)
Paris, France

Jean Genet (pronounced [ʒɑ̃ ʒəˈnɛ] in French) (December 19, 1910 – April 15, 1986), was a French writer and later political activist. Early in his life he was a vagabond (homeless person) and petty criminal. Later in life, Genet wrote novels, plays, poems, and essays, including Querelle, The Thief's Journal, Our Lady of the Flowers, The Balcony, The Blacks and The Maids.

Life[change | change source]

Genet's mother was a young prostitute who put him up for adoption. After committing small crimes as a child, he was sent to the youth prison of Mettray. In the 1940s, he was a vagabond, petty thief and prostitute across Europe.

In the mid-1940s, Genet met Jean Cocteau. Cocteau helped Genet to publish his novel. By 1949 Genet had completed five novels, three plays and numerous poems. His books were banned in the United States.[1]

Between 1955 and 1961 Genet wrote three more plays. In 1964, Genet entered a period of depression and attempted suicide. In the late 1960s, Genet became politically active. Jean Genet was gay (homosexual).

Genet developed throat cancer and died on 15 April 1986 in Paris.

Genet's works[change | change source]

Novels[change | change source]

The first novel, Our Lady of the Flowers (1944), is a about the life in prison. His novels The Miracle of the Rose (1946) and The Thief's Journal (1949), describe his experiences in youth prison and as a prostitute. The novel Querelle de Brest (1947) is about murder and the novel Funeral Rites (1949) is about love and betrayal. His last novel, A Prisoner of Love published in (1986), is different from his other books.

Plays[change | change source]

Genet's plays were considered to be "Theater of the Absurd" plays. These plays had ideas which were similar to the ideas in existentialist ways of thinking. His plays include The Maids (1949); The Balcony (1956); The Screens (1963); The Blacks, which was staged in New York in the Off-Broadway theater.

Film[change | change source]

In 1950, Genet directed a film called Un Chant d'Amour, which showed fantasies about prison life.

Bibliography[change | change source]

Novels and autobiography[change | change source]

Theatre[change | change source]

Poetry[change | change source]

Correspondence[change | change source]

Complete works[change | change source]

Jean Genet, Œuvres completes (Paris: Gallimard, 1952-)

  • Volume 1: Saint Genet: comédien et martyr (by J.-P. Sartre)
  • Volume 2: Notre-Dame des fleurs - Le condamné à mort - Miracle de la rose - Un chant d’amour
  • Volume 3: Pompes funèbres - Le pêcheur du Suquet - Querelle de Brest
  • Volume 4: L’étrange mot d’ ... - Ce qui est resté d’un Rembrandt déchiré en petits carrés - Le balcon - Les bonnes - Haute surveillance -Lettres à Roger Blin - Comment jouer ’Les bonnes’ - Comment jouer ’Le balcon’
  • Volume 5: Le funambule - Le secret de Rembrandt - L’atelier d’Alberto Giacometti - Les nègres - Les paravents - L’enfant criminel
  • Volume 6: L’ennemi déclaré: textes et entretiens

Further reading[change | change source]

  • Barber, Stephen (2004) Jean Genet Reaktion Books, London, ISBN 1-86189-178-4 - biography and critique;
  • Driver, Tom Faw (1966) Jean Genet Columbia University Press, New York;
  • White, Edmund (1993) Jean Genet Chatto and Windus, London, ISBN 0-88001-331-1 - a biography;

References[change | change source]

  1. Edward de Grazia, An Interview with Jean Genet. Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Autumn, 1993), pp. 307-324.

Other websites[change | change source]