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Our Lady of the Flowers

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4.03  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,741 Ratings  ·  165 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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Best Gay Fiction
58th out of 1,360 books — 1,711 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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William1
Jun 02, 2016 William1 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nothing if not hypnotic. Genet's prose is entirely unpredictable and he does something here I wouldn't have thought possible or feasible or even desirable. He takes all these Parisian homosexuals (his word), some of them evildoers -- murderers, thieves, prostitutes, assorted toughs -- though not necessarily evil people, it's just that like all of us they are capable of evil and from time to time actually commit it -- and he raises them to near saintly levels. That's how big his empathy is. It's ...more
Jeffrey Keeten
Feb 10, 2015 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-french
“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 really liked it
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
Feb 12, 2010 Jesse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
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
Apr 07, 2012 knig rated it liked it
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 really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books
Shelves: 1001-core, 501, gay-lit, french
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
Cody
May 04, 2016 Cody rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favoritism
THE REVIEWS ARE IN!!! PARIS REELS!!!

There are only two real writers among the living Frenchmen: Genet and I.”—Louis-Ferdinand Céline (noted Célinean)

Genet is God.” (Jean-Paul Sartre, noted Sartrean)

****************************************

What to make of this novel? What can I possibly add to something both as simple as a “children’s tale” yet so slathered in an alchemical mixture of the sacred and profane that their differentiation becomes a thankless, no, useless task? There are some books
...more
Keith
Jun 29, 2008 Keith rated it really liked it
Shelves: solving-for-x, prison
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
Avital
Jun 23, 2007 Avital rated it it was amazing
Shelves: french
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.
Tosh
Feb 07, 2008 Tosh rated it it was amazing
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.
David M
May 03, 2016 David M rated it it was amazing
Hold on, this shit is kinda gay.

*
I was 17 when I first read Our Lady, and I would never be the same again.

My mind & teenage limbic system simply did not know how to process passages like the following. I thought I literally might explode.

'I know very well that if I were sick, and were cured by a miracle, I would not survive it.'

'July Fourteenth: red, white, and blue everywhere. Divine dresses up in all the other colors, out of consideration for them, because they are disdained.'

'When Mimosa
...more
Antonomasia
Bernard Frechtman translation

Feb 2015.
It would be more rewarding to re-read bits of A rebours and The Naked Civil Servant, I thought at first. (Genet's descriptions are never so lush as Huysmans', and his gay demi-monde - or full-on underworld - is contemporaneous with Crisp's but, for all the use of Wildean reversal / transvaluation of values, the wit here is rarely as funny.) This might have been another instance of reading a classic too late, when I'd already read so much inspired by it that
...more
Velvetink
May 11, 2009 Velvetink rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, read-2009
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.
Lynne King
Oct 29, 2015 Lynne King rated it did not like it
A bad choice of book.
Tyler
Jul 01, 2015 Tyler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Tyler by: Author's Reputation
Shelves: gay-interest
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
Kurt
Nov 02, 2010 Kurt rated it it was amazing
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
May 04, 2015 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 12, 2013 Jamie rated it liked it
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
Aug 15, 2007 Jerome K rated it it was amazing
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 really liked it
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
Apr 19, 2012 Alex Flynn rated it liked it
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.)
May 28, 2010 Vanessa (V.C.) rated it liked it
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
May 28, 2010 sheena rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-japan
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
Tasniem Sami
Sep 10, 2015 Tasniem Sami rated it it was amazing
"يتبدى عمل جينية كمغامرة واعية حول الاسم الخاص le nom propre "
لما كان اسم جينية يدل علي فرس اسباني عربي ٌ الأصل وكذلك على زهرة "الوزال" فإن كتاباته تتحول تارة الي مسرح من الزهر والحركات الخيلية طوراً آخر . ثمة في جميع كتابات جينية حضور طافح للأزهار ، زهور للاخفاء ، زهور للتكريس ، زهور مستخدمة في الشعائر وأخري للقتل -تكاد السيدة ان تموت في "الخادمتين" مُختنقة بعطر الأزهار التي تكدسها الخادمتان في المنزل .
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نان جولدينج كانت عملت portfolio
لاتنين من اصدقائها ماتوا بالايدز في أوائل التمانينات كان اسم
...more
Roland
May 30, 2016 Roland rated it it was amazing
Disgusting and beautiful. This book, about the queer Parisian underworld, feels peak Burroughs but with a romantic edge. It's astonishing that a book like this was published in 1943, since a number of passages read like pornography, in addition to the characters behaving in absolutely vile ways to each other. It's hard to like these characters, and any sympathy I may have had for Divine vanished near the end during the passage with the dead child. For fans of beat literature, this novel is essen ...more
Namrirru
Nov 12, 2008 Namrirru rated it it was amazing
Shelves: les-grenouilles, e
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
66yoguy
Nov 20, 2013 66yoguy rated it did not like it
Why would I think that I would like a book that needed an introduction (this one 49 pages) explaining why the book is a masterpiece?

Why would a critic praise a book that is "disturbing", "crude", and reflects "the lower depths of human existence"?

Why would a book about a man masturbating and smelling his own farts be anything but sick?

I didn't like it.
Shane
Nov 30, 2013 Shane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 13, 2009 Cuculidae rated it it was amazing
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.
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  • La Bâtarde
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  • My Mother/Madame Edwarda/The Dead Man
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  • Là-Bas (Down There)
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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.
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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.” 63 likes
“I wanted to swallow myself by opening my mouth very wide and turning it over my head so that it would take in my whole body, and then the Universe, until all that would remain of me would be a ball of eaten thing which little by little would be annihilated: that is how I see the end of the world.” 28 likes
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