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Jean Genet
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Jean Genet

 

Jean Genet (born illegitimately on December 19, 1910 in Paris, died April 15, 1986 in Paris) was a novelist, playwright, and poet. His novels and plays, full of sexual situations, usually deal with pimps, thieves, gay men and other social outcasts, reflecting his own experiences as a gay prison inmate.

Having been accused of stealing at age ten, Genet decided to become an actual thief and spent his teenage years in youth prison. Later he lived as a male prostitute. In 1943, he was convicted to serve a life-long sentence and decided to take up writing.

His first novel, widely regarded as his best, Our Lady of the Flowers (1944), describes a journey through the Parisian underworld. In The Miracle of the Rose (1946), he focuses on his life in prison, where he meets men again who had been his lovers in youth prison. Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Cocteau, and Pablo Picasso found his work so brilliant, that eventually he was pardoned in 1948.

Later works by him include The Thief's Journal (1949) and Querelle (1947), the movie version of which was the last film directed by Rainer Fassbinder. Todd Haynes' 1991 movie Poison was also based on the writings of Genet.

Famous plays authored by him are The Maids (1949) and The Balcony (1956). Genet also directed a movie in 1950, Un Chant d'Amour.

Genet was also involved in radical politics, including supporting the Black Panthers, and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

He is remembered today (or relatively recently) in David Bowie's classic song Jean Genie.