Jean Genet

Author: Jean Genet

Profile: Jean Genet was a novelist, poet, dramatist, philosopher, essayist, playwright and political activist. He was born in Paris, France and died in Paris, France. He was a wanderer and a petty criminal during his younger years, however took interest in writing later. Our Lady of the Flowers and The Thief’s Journal are his main works and major plays include The Screens, The Maids and The Balcony.

His prostitute mother put him up for adoption after he was seven months old after which he grew up in the Nievre department of central France in the provincial town of Alligny-en-Morvan. Under the care of his attentive and loving foster family he received good grades in school. However he attempted petty thefts many times and tried running away. An elderly couple looked after him after his foster mother’s death. But his misdemeanors of spending huge sums of money, wearing makeup, going out during the nights and vagrancy done repeatedly landed him in detainment at the Mettray Penal Colon from September 2, 1926 to March 1, 1929. Later he joined the Foreign Legion but on indecency grounds was awarded a dishonorable discharge

In 1937 he returned to Paris and was arrested for many of his offences. He met Jean Cocteau in Paris who felt very impreseed with Genet and used his contacts to publish Genet’s work. After being convicted ten times, Genet was threatened with a life sentence but many prominent figures and Cocteau petititoned the French President successfully and got the sentence set aside. After this Genet would never be imprisioned. By 1949, Genet had completed five novels, three plays, and numerous poems, many controversial for their explicit and often deliberately provocative portrayal of homosexuality and criminality.

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Writing style: Much of Jean Genet’s work including numerous poems, three plays and five novels are controversial for their deliberately provocative and explicit portrayal of criminality and homosexuality. Jean Genet’s genre was homosexuality, crime, existentialism and sadomasochism. He has been a part of the Theatre of the Absurd, Literary Movement.

Published Texts:


1942/1943 – Our Lady of the Flowers

1946/1951 – Miracle of the Rose

1947/1953 – Funeral Rites

1947/1953 – Querelle of Brest

1949/1949 – The Thief’s Journal

1986/1986 – Prisoner of Love


2003 – Fragments of the Artwork

1949 – Deathwatch

1947 – The Maids


1993 – Splendid’s

1962 – The Balcony

1959 – The Blacks

1989 – Her

1964 – The Screens

1994 – Le Bagne (French edition only)


1945 – The Man Sentneced to Death

1945 – Funeral March

1945 – The Gallery

1946 – A Song of Love

1948 – The Fisherman of the Suquet

1948 – The Parade

Awards and Acknowledgements:

1960 – Obie Award for Best Foreign Play (The Balcony)

1961 – Obie Award for Best New Play (The Blacks: A Clown Show)