Some forty-odd years ago, in my office at the chancery of the American Embassy in Paris, I was visited by a young man who looked like a bantamweight boxer just past his prime: balding and broken-nosed, in a byronic collar, a light gray suit, and flashy yellowish pumps which must have caught my eye because they were the kind one saw at the Bal Nègre, or the Bar des Apaches on the Rue de Lappe, some such place, where you went to inspect the underside of the newly liberated French capital and hobnob with pimps and whores. This was Jean Genet, sent (if memory serves) by Jean-Paul Sartre, the brightest new star on the literary horizon; and bearing a huge typescript or galley proof of what would have been Notre Dame des Fleurs or Le Miracle de la Rose, probably both, the autobiographical novels he had written in the Santé or Fresnes, the least terrible of the prisons in which he had been confined during the German Occupation—not as a...


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