Translated by Bernard Frechtman and with an introduction by Jean-Paul Sartre (who famously hailed the novel as an 'epic of masturbation'), Our Lady of the Flowers was first written on brown paper in a French prison. A guard who uncovered this unapproved activity confiscated Jean Genet's manuscript and burned it. Undaunted, Genet wrote it afresh. After private and small-press publications, its acceptance in 1951 by Gallimard put Genet immediately into the front rank of French writers.
'Our Lady of the Flowers' himself is a 16-year-old hoodlum who has fulfilled his destiny by strangling an old man. In the world of Our Lady - a world of pimps, thieves, prostitutes, queens and blackmailers - 'morality' in the common sense of the word has no meaning. But Genet's fervent fantasies from a prison cell, crystallizing around the handsome forms of his criminal heroes, are a transcendence of his straitened surroundings.