Jean Genet was born on December 19, 1910 in Paris, France and soon afterwards abandoned by his unmarried mother. Raised by a family of peasants, he began stealing, and getting caught, at a young age. He became accustomed to harsh reform schools as a child and easily made the transition to prison as an adult.
The seedy life of the professional small-time criminal became his theme, and he described this life with unprecedented realism. His concept of degradation as a aesthetic life-choice anticipated Herbert Huncke
and William S. Burroughs
, while his raw, lushly scatalogical images of common life present another window into the visions of Henry Miller.
He did not begin writing until 1942, when he wrote 'Our Lady of the Flowers' while in prison. After producing many works of brutalist prose, he began a new phase of conceptual Absurdist drama. In 1968 he made an unusual trip to America to protest the Vietnam War alongside Allen Ginsberg
, William S. Burroughs and Terry Southern
at the 1968 Democratic Party convention in Chicago.
Genet died on April 15, 1986 in the city of his birth, Paris.
Online excerpts from his writings can be experienced at the Jean Genet Page