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Literature: Our Lady Of The Flowers

Our Lady of the Flowers is a 1943 novel by Jean Genet. Inspired by his youth in Paris spent as a thief, it is a vaguely autobiographical story about a sordid fantasy Paris full of drag queens, pimps, sailors, and other archetypes of gay experience.

The novel aroused controversy for several years because of its nonchalant treatment of homosexuality (Genet was gay) and its flippant depiction of male masturbation. Within the mechanics of the novel, masturbation is a deeply symbolic act; Jean Paul Sartre called Our Lady of the Flowers "the epic of masturbation" in Saint Genet, his critique of the author.

At the time of the novel's writing, Genet was serving a prison sentence for his thefts. After completing the novel, Genet sought out writer/director Jean Cocteau, who not only published it, but formed a French avant-garde supergroup (including himself, Pablo Picasso, Jean-Paul Sartre and Andre Gide) to convince the French president to pardon him. Which he did.
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