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Our Lady of the Flowers

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  2,967 ratings  ·  139 reviews
Jean Genet's seminal Our Lady Of The Flowers (1943) is generally considered to be his finest fictional work. The first draft was written while Genet was incarcerated in a French prison; when the manuscript was discovered and destroyed by officials, Genet, still a prisoner, immediately set about writing it again. It isn't difficult to understand how and why Genet was able t ...more
Paperback, 216 pages
Published December 1st 2004 by Olympiapress.com (first published 1943)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
“The despondency that follows makes me feel somewhat like a shipwrecked man who spies a sail, sees himself saved, and suddenly remembers that the lens of his spyglass has a flaw, a blurred spot -- the sail he has seen.”

 photo Un_Chant_DAmour_zpsa96a90cf.jpg

I think everybody who tries to write a review about Our Lady of the Flowers starts out confounded, befuddled, muddled as to where to start because for one thing Genet's writing style has jumbled up the coherent, organized part of your brain.

I was fortunate that the edition I cho
...more
Jessica
May 22, 2009 Jessica rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: inverts; perverts; onanists; aesthetes; kids who have a vivid imaginative life, or who wish they did
They should give Jean Genet a kids show. You know, like Sesame Street and Barney and whatever they have now -- Dora the Explorer? Jean could teach the kids outdated pimp argot instead of Spanish! But the language thing would be extra; the reason Genet gets a kids show is that the message of this book is the same as those shows': this message being the glorious imperative to use your imagination.

"Use your imagination!" When you think about it, it's a bit strange that there's such an emphasis on t
...more
Jesse
It's been weeks now, and I've been trying to figure out something, anything to say about this novel. Oh, I liked it—very much so, as my rating surely indicates—but I keep circling around and around it, desperately searching for the detail upon which to structure and make sense of my reactions. I have to admit I still haven't found it, though there's plenty that could be rhapsodized over—the cruel beauty, the unexpected possibility of transcendence, the influential, still-avant garde style. But n ...more
knig
Jean Genet, the author, is serving time in 1940s Paris, and whilst awaiting sentencing begins to write, all sorts, on the back of brown paper bags: and voila: Our Lady of the Flowers is born. He would have used hundreds of these brown bags though: how did he ever get them.

Genet writes to assist his masturbation (niiice), and cobbles together a patchwork quilt of personal reminiscences, fantasy, autobiographical sense data, general musings and various story threads of unascertainable veracity.

Th
...more
K.D. Absolutely
Dec 29, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books
Shelves: 1001-core, 501, french, gay-lit
Paris, France during the 40's. Louis Culafroy, a gay boy has come out and named himself Divine. This is his story: his life as a son, male prostitute, thief, swindler, blackmailer and lover. His one true love is a pimp and a beautiful virile man called Darling Daintyfoot. Description of Darling: height, 5 ft. 9 in., weight 165 lbs., oval face, blond hair, blue-green eyes, mat complexion, perfect teeth, straight nose. Divine loves him so much that she worships Darling's cock that she has made a p ...more
Keith
This was hard, but there is an unmistakable art in Genet's writing--a sensuality as it should be: consumed with textures and scents. I got lost and am certain I did not always understand but the book left me impressed with Genet's eye for details, humor, and poetry. Like poetry, it should be read more than once; it's blunted characters and blurred identities fall like sunlight or shadows on whatever you as a reader bring. This is not a celebration of gay or criminal lives, but a perspective that ...more
Tosh
The best prison novel ever! Well, actually it's a piece of erotica from a genius writer. Jean Genet is one of the greats, because he can express suffering, joyment, and a world that is extremely eroticize. To go into his world is like having a feverish dream and realizing that your world that you work in can not possibly exist. Genet's world is much more real, dirty and very very beautiful.
Avital
Genet is a genious in his sensual descriptions of ruthless men. His attraction to crime and death equals his love for masculine beauty and sex. He wrote this book in jail, and in more than one way, this book released him.
The first time i read it I was about twenty and it actually shook my (literary) world. He was so different from anything I'd read before (and i'd real lots of books before) that I compulsively read and reread it.
Tyler
Jul 06, 2010 Tyler rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Tyler by: Author's Reputation
The title Our Lady of the Flowers turned me off at first – another self-absorbed piece of trashy drag. But why then did Sartre write a long preface? There lay the key. Sartre had been fleshing out his program of existential psychoanalysis, and then he suddenly found it all here, in the flesh. It’s a rare feat when a novelist breathes life into untested ideas.

Almost every reader has trouble describing this book, no matter how they like it. Now I’ll give it a try. Jean Genet performs here a sort
...more
Velvetink
Powerful work with sensual descriptions of even ordinary events. Considering his lack of education (left school at about 12 or so) it's a work of genius, and he is not fettered by conventional uses of narrative.
Kurt
If asked to name the single greatest book I've read it would be Our Lady of the Flowers. I was introduced to it by a rough trade male hustler in 1975 and it's hard to believe I got past the first page at that time.

This novel purports to tell the story of a circle of pimps and transvestites in 1940's Paris. That, however, is surface, and it is unfortunate that gay and feminist factions have appropriated Our Lady as a kind of political manifesto. Genet himself stated that this was not his aim at
...more
Ralowe Ampu
i’d want to say that it was hard for me to finish reading this because i couldn’t stop masturbating but honestly i was masturbating because of something else. which is not to say that this book was a contributing factor. i think the spate of masturbation which coincided with the reading was because i was having anxiety about my neighbor screaming, which did make it very hard to read the book and really enjoy it. so you see i share something in common with genet—disclosing too much information. i ...more
James
This free-flowing, poetic novel is a largely autobiographical account of a man's journey through the Parisian underworld. Genet drew the characters after their real-life counterparts, who are mostly homosexuals living on the fringes of society as was Genet himself. Written while he was in prison, it was largely completed in 1942. The book was first published anonymously by Robert Denoël and Paul Morihien at the end of 1943, though only about 30 copies of the first edition were bound in that year ...more
Jamie
Frequently beautiful & certainly one of the few books to legitimately make me blush when reading it in public (particularly on the train, where I was v. attentive to whether or not fellow passengers were reading over my shoulder). That said, after the first 50 pages, I found it an incredible chore to get through. Perhaps I just needed to be reading, at that point, something more narratively driven. The sense of awe awarded figures like Divine and Our Lady, &co was evident, wonderful, now ...more
Jerome K
I read a friend's copy of this. I didn't know much about Genet when I read it. His prose is florid to say the least. This novel and Miracle Of The Rose, which are two of my favourite Genet works, is about life in and out (but mostly in) prisons, with a strong homoerotic subtext. Probably the best novel about gay fantasy/life prison life. Todd Haynes's movie Poison used some references from Miracle I think. I was very impressionable at the time so yeah it definitely fired up my imagination. LOL.
Andy
Jun 11, 2008 Andy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: erotica lovers
Unique erotica, like no other book ever written. A convict in a French prison posts glamorous magazine pics of men on his cell wall and daydreams sex fantasies of them intermingled with fantasies of his fellow inmates.
This is no gay porn Walter Mitty, though; you find yourself inhabiting an alternate universe much like Kenneth Anger’s short films made during the same period (World War II Nineteen Forties). Read this and feel your head explode!
Alex Flynn
A beautifully written novel with very little plot to speak of and a moral compass whose north pole has been replaced with orgasmic bliss. It's hard to treat this work like a novel since the telling of it is very cyclic, always circling back to the fundamental function of onanistic utility. These are stories Genet tells himself in order to die small deaths.

Ostensibly the protagonist is a trans prostitute named Divine, who is more a projection of the narrators fantasies than a fully formed charac
...more
Vanessa (V.C.)
Our Lady of the Flowers isn't an easy read. It has a twisted premise and an even more twisted way of when, where, and how it was written. I didn't love this novel, but I didn't hate it either. I was intrigued by the characters and more or less impressed by Genet's writing style, but on the other hand I think Genet's style was also a turn off. He rambles...A LOT. It is pretentious rambling, many times too self-indulgent, so much so that it at times made it difficult to really take this book serio ...more
sheena
Never thought I'd suggest that a novel devoted to praising penis should be adapted for Broadway, but here we are.

So, when I wrote my dear friend to ask if he cared that I doodled all throughout his book, he responded: "NP. Fascinated to see what sapphic undertones you can wrench out of the depths of Jean Genet's dick-swinging fiesta." YEA. That was pretty hard to do; the soundtrack to this text screams PENIS-PRICKS-STICKS. (Somehow though, it's surprisingly NOT misogynistic, and almost HAWT, ev
...more
Namrirru
This book would be extremely depressing except for the interesting connection between his fantasies and being a prisoner. The prisoner writes his fantasies from his prison cell, whiddling away the time or just trying to keep himself company. But the really interesting aspect is the way he talks to his audience, because it isn't so much story which evolves but his view of people he's writing to. The longer he is in prison in isolation, the more frantic and desperate he becomes so that his story g ...more
Carlos Mock
Our Lady of The Flowers - Notre Dame des Fleurs - by Gene Genet, translated from the French by Bernard Frechtman

This is Gene Genet best known novel. It was written in 1942 while he was incarcerated in the Fresnes Prison. Genet wrote it on sheets of brown paper which prison authorities provided to prisoners - with the intention that they would make bags of it. As recounted by Jean-Paul Sartre in his foreword to "Our Lady of the Flowers", a prison guard discovered that the prisoner Genet had been
...more
John Tipper
Aug 07, 2014 John Tipper rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Jean Genet was a French professional criminal during the 20th century. An abandoned child, he lived for a while in an orphanage and then dropped out of school to become a homosexual prostitute, a petty thief and had a stint in the French Foreign Legion
He wrote this novel entirely in prison. Divine, a homosexual, is the central character, who dies early on in the narrative. It is difficult to say what the novel is precisely "about", since the prose is poetic and disjointed. Genet fantasizes a lot
...more
Jay Cardam
Feb 05, 2014 Jay Cardam rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jay by: Brother
I read this book as a sophomore in High School...sent to me by an older brother at Indiana University. My English Teacher actually let me do my book report on it. (although she made me meet with her first to discuss the book) She was amazing, old-school dragon of a teacher but throughout the year would throw books on my desk at the end of class and tell me..."Read this and come talk to me about it." I don't remember all the books, but the first one...Kingsblood Royal...sticks out in my mind.

Our
...more
Shane
Flowing, lyrical genius. Have to re-read just to look up all the references to flowers and the like. A book that wants to be smelled, whether its smelling chism, farts or flowers. Elegiac in tone, the sad tale of a cross dresser, Divine, and her sad swallowing into Divinity. Amazing writing, thoughts and images.
Cuculidae
A reminder of childhood, a body tucked into dreaming.
Creating all, from only one god : Genet.
A god of masturbatory continuation, it never stops
for the Eternal is caught , if only for a brief flutter : the swelling of an ache deep in the night.
Keith
Alberto and Culafroy in the wheat grasses made me coo.

A very good read by a significant queer author. Gorgeous language and a beautiful collection of antiheros.

I think the forward by Sarte should be read after the text instead of before.
Rauan
in an excellent introductory essay Sartre calls this book the "masturbation epic." and so it is. Genet in prison writing to excite himself.

violence and blue-eyed killers conflated with the sacred, flowers and churches.

Bri
Beautiful and poetic. At times the poetic language over-complicates the story and the reader is not allowed to paint a realistic picture of the characters (though I think that might be the point).
Elena
My copy has a quote on the book jacket that runs along the line of "a classic of such magnitude that any comment on its merit would be presumptuous... "
Michael Cross
grit and down and fleshy veils and veils . . .
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Jean Genet was a prominent, controversial French writer and later political activist. Early in his life he was a vagabond and petty criminal, but later took to writing novels, plays, poems, and essays, including Querelle de Brest, The Thief's Journal, Our Lady of the Flowers, The Balcony, The Blacks and The Maids.
More about Jean Genet...
The Thief's Journal The Balcony Querelle The Maids & Deathwatch Miracle of the Rose

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“My heart's in my hand, and my hand is pierced, and my hand's in the bag, and the bag is shut, and my heart is caught.” 50 likes
“They spent their time doing nothing... they let intimacy fuse them.” 16 likes
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