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Michael Murphy – Jean Genet’s Inquiry into Language


THE LETTER 33 (Spring 2005) pages 105-128




Jean Genet and Jacques Lacan were Parisian contemporaries, and belong to the flowering of French intellectual life hothoused by the Second World War. On the nineteenth of March 1944, Lacan partied with Sartre, de Beauvoir, Camus, Bataille, Picasso and Braque. Four days earlier, the petty criminal, Jean Genet, was released from the Camp des Tourrelles in Paris, a known deportation centre for the concentration camps. He emerged as one of the great literary figures of the twentieth century, and would never again be behind bars. For Genet, prison became a metaphor for language, and Genet used words to make his escape. His masterpiece, Our Lady of the Flowers, had already been written during the nine months Genet spent in Parisian jails in 1942. It was begun in the Sante prison at the start of the year, and finished towards the end of the year after his release from the prison of Fresnes.

Jean Genet’s Inquiry into Language

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