Jean Genet (1910 – 1986) was a French novelist, playwright, poet, essayist, and political activist. In his early life he was a vagabond and petty criminal, but he later became a writer and playwright. His major works include the novels `The Thief's Journal' and `Our Lady of the Flowers' and the plays `The Balcony', `The Maids' and `The Screens'.

Genet's mother was a prostitute who gave him up for adoption when he was 7 months old. Although he was fostered by a loving family, and achieved excellent grades at school, his childhood involved a series of attempts at running away and incidents of petty theft. His behaviour was such that when he was only 15 he was sent to the Mettray Penal Colony where he was detained between September 1926 and March 1929. In `Miracle of the Rose' (1946), he provides an account of this period of detention, which ended at the age of 18 when he joined the Foreign Legion.

He became a political activist and In 1970, the Black Panthers invited him to the United States, where he stayed for three months giving lectures, attended the trial of their leader, Huey Newton, and published articles in their journals. Later that year he spent six months in Palestinian refugee camps, secretly meeting Yasser Arafat near Amman. Profoundly moved by his experiences in the USA and Jordan, Genet wrote a final lengthy memoir about his experiences, `Prisoner of Love', which would be published posthumously.

Several of his novels and plays were made into films.

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