of the Flowers
Jean Genet, (19/12/ 1910 - 15/4/1986) was a French writer who transformed erotic and often obscene subject matter into a poetic vision and as a dramatist, became a leading figure in the Theatre of the Absurd.
Genet was born in Paris, an illegitimate child abandoned by his mother; he was adopted by a family of peasants. He was caught stealing at the age of 10 and he had to spent part of his adolescence at a notorious reform school. He began to write in 1942 while imprisoned for theft and produced an outstanding novel: “Our Lady of the Flowers” portraying the prewar Montmartre underworld. With his autobiographical “The Thief’s Journal”, (1949) gave a complete account of his life as a tramp, pickpocket, and male prostitute in various European cities. His talent was brought to the attention of Jean Cocteau and later Jean-Paul Sartre. In 1948 he was convicted of theft for the 10th time and would have faced life imprisonment but a delegation of well-known writers appealed to the president and he was released.
After writing two more novels, Genet began to experiment with drama. His early attempts, by their compact, neoclassical, one-act structure, reveal the strong influence of Sartre. In the play (The Maids, 1947) he began to explore the complex problems of identity that were soon to preoccupy other avant-garde dramatists such as Beckett and Ionesco. With this play Genet was established as an outstanding figure in the Theatre of the Absurd.
Genet developed throat cancer and was found dead on 15 April 1986, in a hotel room in Paris.