(December 19, 1910 - April 15, 1986) France
Playwright, poet and writer
Born in Paris. He was abandoned by his parents and spent much of his youth in an institution for juvenile delinquents for theft and prostitution. In 1929 he escaped from reform school and joined the military, joining the French Foreign Legion and was posted in Syria. He then deserted and spent the next seven years in and out of prison. He wandered through Europe, living as a thief and male prostitute. He began writing in 1939.
His work was heavily influenced by his early criminal lifestyle and his homosexuality. He was an exponent of the Theatre of Cruelty. His turbulent life and early years spent in prison are reflected in his drama. According to his biographer, Edmund White, Genet was "a cat's cradle of contradictions. . . a homosexual whose closest friends were women, a world celebrity who lived in crummy railway hotels, the author of a handful of the most sumptuously stylish novels of this century who, after the age of ten, received all of his education in reform schools."
By 1948 he faced a life-sentence in prison, but French president Vincent Auriol pardoned him at the request of Jean Cocteau, Jean-Paul Sartre, and other important literary figures. In freedom, he continued his vagabond lifestyle, using his publisher's office as a mail drop.
His plays are characterized by a sense of ritual, role-play and illusion in which his characters come to act out their bizarre and violent fantasies in actuality, as in Le bonnes (The Maids), and Le balcon (The Balcony). Later playsd include Les nègres (The Blacks) and Les paravents (The Screens) dealing with the Algerian situation. Genet died in Paris.
Go to the page we devoted to Jean Genet in our book Homoerotic Famous Poems
- Notre-Dame des Fleurs (1943)
- Miracle de la Rose (1945)
- Pompes Funebres (1947)
- Querelle de Brest (1947)
- Journal du voleur (1948)
- Un captif amoureux (1986)
- Les Bonnes (1947)
- Le Balcon (1956)
- Les nègres (1958)
- Les Paravents (1961)