#WITMonth Day 4: Virginie Despentes

Virginie Despentes is a writer and filmmaker, and former maid, sex worker, and freelance rock journalist. Her first novel, Baise-Moi, the controversial rape-revenge story, was published in 1992 and adapted for film in 2000. Upon release it became the first film to be banned in France for twenty-eight years. She is the author of over fifteen further works, including Apocalypse Baby (2010) and Bye Bye Blondie (2004), and the autobiographical essay, King Kong Theory (2006). The first title in her Vernon Subutex trilogy was first published in French in 2013, with the second and third titles following in 2015 and 2017 respectively. As of summer 2017, the trilogy has sold close to a million copies in France.

Despentes’ work has always marked her out as a taboo-shattering writer and filmmaker, but her unflinching depictions of sex, drugs and violence has a searing social commentary at its heart. Her Vernon Subutex trilogy is an all-encompassing portrait of a society teetering on the brink of chaos; of lives, voices and stories, all woven together in a vast, urban tapestry.

Her writing disturbs its readers, not so much for its subversive subject matter, but rather for Despentes’ unnerving gift for striking so close to home. In any of her books, her characters are people we might equally meet in any walk of life; their stories are dramas that could befall any one of us. 

It is this genius for skewering the darkest realities of modern life that makes Virginie Despentes essential reading for troubled, turbulent times.

Recommended reading

The following titles by Virginie Despentes are currently available in English translation:

Vernon Subutex 1, translated from the French by Frank Wynne (MacLehose Press, 2017)

Apocalypse Baby, translated from the French by Sian Reynolds (Serpent's Tail, 2013)

King Kong Theory, translated from the French by Stéphanie Benson (Serpent's Tail, 2013)