Pornstars get tired of sex

Virginie Despentes: Sex and Drugs - and fear of relegation

It is true that when you are in your late 40s you can often no longer sleep so well at night. You lie awake and worry. The economic crisis, the slow but sure disintegration of the social system, the end of the intergenerational contract and all the rest of the adult shit that we never even suspected at a young age and that rob us all of our good dreams, are escalating into fear of old-age poverty.

Then there are the signs of deterioration observed in one's own body and character. The skin becomes slack, the eyes get tired. It tweaks and tweaks - and the drugs, which may not have been part of the whole misery, no longer work as they used to.

It is precisely this desperate state of affairs at the transition from wasting youth, prolonged with stubborn irrationality, to the realization that the really big problems only begin with the "best years", that of the novel trilogy The life of the Vernon Subutex by the French author Virginie Despentes is currently making it an international bestseller. Despentes (49) has a real biography on top of that: drugs, prostitution, rock 'n' roll, author of the pornographic road movie she filmed herself Baise-moi - fuck me!. Houellebecq tough.

Waiting for the end

The second part of this, now in German, possibly not even so fictitious social decay biography about the battered title hero begins with the aforementioned insomnia. Above all, Vernon can no longer sleep so well at night because he has become homeless after he has been mortgaged and all his belongings have been sold.

Delirious in the cold, he almost scratched off the flu and now has to argue with other sandlers over park benches. Finally he finds shelter in a ruined family house in a Paris suburb and waits for the end, surrendering to his fate.

Vernon Subutex is in his late 40s and a former record store owner. His literary predecessor, protagonist Rob Fleming from Nick Hornbys, works against him High fidelity from 1995, like a sovereign artist of life. After the end of his livelihood because of music streaming and YouTube, Vernon is sitting on the street after the odyssey over various sofas of his circle of friends in part one. There, in the form of bleak fellow sufferers who are still capable of social feelings, he meets at least more normal people than those from his old social bubble.

From crack to chamomile

It will soon catch up with him and - for the time being? - rescue from an emergency. But does the old company do him any good? After all, it is a select mixture of people who do not necessarily have a middle-class career: cynical drug wrecks from the music industry, associated dealers, cyber-bullies and (haha!) Journalists. There are also porn stars who call themselves "Pamela Kant" or "Vodka Santana", or film producers who look like a caricature from Harvey Weinstein. Particularly nasty in this brashly told tour de force: Charles, the part-time clochard who hides a lottery six so as not to have to change his life - or Aisha, who converted to Islam after learning of her mother's porn past.

Up until the finale, which will appear in September, all of this makes for a stopover for a little bit of hippie shit, at juvenile dance events and the hope of being able to find redemption even in old age. But: "The problem with salvation is that it feels like switching from crack to chamomile: you suspect that it is really great, but at the moment it's a lot less fun." (Christian Schachinger, 8.3.2018)

Virginie Despentes, "The life of Vernon Subutex 2", from the French by Claudia Steinitz, € 22.90 / 400 pages. Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2018