Virginie Despentes is a French writer, filmmaker, and essayist. She is best known for her novels Baise-moi (Rape Me, 1993), Les Jolies Choses (Pretty Things, 2008), and Vernon Subutex (2015). Despentes won several literary awards, including the Prix Renaudot in 2015.
Virginie Despentes was born in Nancy, Meurthe-et-Moselle. She grew up in a working-class family. At fifteen, her parents placed her in a psychiatric hospital against her will. She left home and dropped out of school at the age of 17.
She started her career in a record shop and a peep show. She was a prostitute and a punk before taking up writing and filmmaking.
Despentes wrote about her experiences of being an adult in her debut novel Baise-moi in 1993. Later, in 2000, Despentes co-directed and adapted the book into a controversial film. She published several more novels, e.g., Les Jolies Choses in 1998.
Virginie Despentes consolidated her success with her non-fiction work, King Kong Theory (2006), which recounts her experiences in the French sex industry. Her next big project, The Vernon Subutex trilogy (2015–2017), won the prestigious Prix Renaudot. The novels follow the titular character Vernon Subutex, a former record shop owner who becomes homeless after the death of his friend and benefactor.
In 2018, Despentes was shortlisted for the International Booker Prize for Vernon Subutex: Volume 1.
In addition to her writing, Despentes has directed several films, including Les Jolies Choses and King Kong Theory, a documentary based on her feminist essay.
Despentes has also been a vocal advocate for feminist and queer causes and has written extensively on issues such as rape culture, pornography, and gender identity.
Photo credit: JF Paga-Grasset