Our Lady of the Flowers
Written by Jean Genet
Published in 1963 by Grove Press
This remarkable book was written while the author Genet was in jail.
As part of a work assignment he was given brown paper bags and it is here he would scribble the words that eventually became his best known novel. Half way through, the manuscript was confiscated so he started again...eventually smuggling the completed work out of the prison.
At some point it came to the attention of Jean Paul Sartre who, along with other artist (most notably Picasso), petitioned the French government to release Genet who was facing a life sentence. They argued his literary potential was too great for him to spend the rest of his life incarcerated.
Obviously they succeeded.
The book is like a dream, pulling the reader into one of the most original minds of the 19th century. It is best read on small doses of acid while watching shadows on yellow walls high in the mountains.
In the novel Genet spends most of his time masturbating under an itchy woolen blanket and smelling his farts while fantasizing about the life of a hard working whore, Divine and the heroic pimps she supports. One is never sure whether Genet is recalling events from his memory or his imagination; but his sincerity or should i say authenticity is never questioned.
He brings to life characters the bourgeois disdain. On these pages the petty thieves, transvestites and male hookers live as they choose. They do not rebel but instead create their own society which is rich with the innocence of humanity.
When a young murder is asked why he killed he replies that he was fantastically broke and the old man was through..."He couldn't even get a hard on"...which ensures the jurors, all older men, deliver the death penalty. But Genet does not examine the pettiness of these well respected impotent citizens instead he concentrates on the grace and simplicity of the accused, practically elevating the murderer to saint hood.
(Jean Paul was so taken with Genet he wrote a six hundred page book about his character. Genet who was given up for adoption early in life never knew his parents. When he was ten his caretakers accused him wrongly of stealing so Genet to prove them right and thus wrong, became a thief)
Genet the fag rocks and his brilliance shines on every page.
A must read for liberals (whom Genet hated) and everyone else in between.