Jean Genet

(1910 - 1986)

Later termed “the Black Prince of Letters” by his friend and discoverer Jean Cocteau, Jean Genet spent much of the 1930s traveling Europe as a prostitute and thief; he wrote his first novel, Our Lady of the Flowers, in 1942 while doing time for theft. In 1948 Genet faced the prospect of life imprisonment, but he had become well-known enough for Cocteau and Jean-Paul Sartre to successfully petition the French president for his pardon. “Genet is never familiar,” wrote Sartre. “He does, to be sure, tell us everything, but it is the sacred truth.”

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To achieve harmony in bad taste is the height of elegance.

—Jean Genet, 1949

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