Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Miracle of the Rose was Jean Genet’s second novel, written after Notre-Dame des Fleurs (1944; revised, 1951; Our Lady of the Flowers, 1949; revised, 1963) but before Journal d’un voleur (1949; The Thief’s Journal, 1954). It is related to The Thief’s Journal in its prison milieu and to Our Lady of the Flowers in its glorification of homosexuality. Thus Miracle of the Rose is a most powerful contribution to the field of inverted romanticism.

According to Jean-Paul Sartre, Genet was a saint who made a religion of evil. Throughout his works, Genet glorified the beauty of crime and turned cowardice, betrayal, and murder into theological virtues. Sartre asserts that Genet was always obsessed with the concept of superiority. Consequently, Genet chose evil because that is the realm in which he could achieve it. This worship of evil has led to comparisons with Charles Baudelaire. Genet’s long history as a thief has also produced comparison with Francois Villon. Yet Jean Cocteau, the first writer to discover and admire him, considered Genet to be a moralist.

Throughout his works and plays, it is clear that Genet felt alienated from the modern world, guilty for simply being. With his writing, which in later years included poetry, fiction, and plays, such as Le Balcon (1956, revised 1961; The Balcony, 1957), he achieved intellectual freedom, and freedom from restricting loyalties and theories.