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Vernon Subutex, Volume 1

Virginie Despentes | Translated by Frank Wynne

From the provocative writer and filmmaker Virginie Despentes comes volume one of her acclaimed trilogy of novels, Vernon Subutex—short-listed for the Man Booker International Prize. But who is Vernon Subutex? Vernon Subutex was once the proprietor of Revolver, an infamous music shop in Paris, where his name was legend throughout Paris. By the 2000s, however, with the arrival of the internet and the decline in CD and vinyl sales, his shop is struggling, like so many others. When it closes, Subutex finds himself with nowhere to go and nothing to do. Before long, his savings are gone, and when the mysterious rock star who had been covering his rent suddenly drops dead of a drug overdose, Subutex finds himself launched on an epic saga of couch-surfing, boozing, and coke-snorting before finally winding up homeless. Just as he resigns himself to life as a panhandler, a throwaway comment he once made on Facebook takes the internet by storm. The word is out: Subutex is lugging around a bunch of VHS tapes shot by that same dead rock musician—his last recordings on this earth. Soon a crowd of wild characters, from screen writers to social media groupies, from porn stars to failed musicians to random misfits, are hot on Vernon's trail . . . but Vernon is none the wiser.

"Virginie Despentes is a true original, a punk-rock George Eliot with a keen taste for the pitiable innards of her characters: no one else has her slyly penetrating eye, her spiky sense of humor, her razor wit that cuts like wire through the accumulated crud of our age's default thought patterns. In her masterful hands,Vernon Subutex becomes a droll, hilarious, insightful record of our unfortunate times." —Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine

"Masterly . . . Despentes is often described as a 'rock and roll' Balzac . . . She also resembles, by turns, William Gibson, George Eliot and Michel Houellbecq, with a sunnier attitude." —Chris Kraus, The Times Literary Supplement

Originally published by Grasset in 2015 with the title Vernon Subutex.

More information here.


Virginie Despentes is a writer and filmmaker. She worked in an independent record store in the early ’90s, was a sex worker, and published her first novel, Baise Moi, when she was twenty-three. She adapted the novel for the screen in 2000, codirecting with the porn star Coralie Trinh Thi. Upon release, it became the first film to be banned in France in twenty-eight years. Despentes is the author of more than fifteen other works, including Apocalypse Baby, Bye Bye Blondie, Pretty Things, and the essay collection King Kong Theory.

Frank Wynne has translated the work of many authors including Michel Houellebecq, Boualem Sansal, Frédéric Beigbeder, and the late Ivoirian novelist Ahmadou Kourouma. He won the International IMPAC Literary Award with Houellebecq for The Elementary Particles.

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