Confrontational author wins Francophone writers award


PARIS–A former prostitute who became an award-winning novelist and filmmaker, Virginie Despentes, has won a new prize dedicated to boosting the stature of French writers in the English-speaking world. A jury of French writers and English and American literary agents voted to give the first Anais Nin Prize to Despentes for her latest novel, ��Vernon Subutex 1,�� a fast-paced thriller set in a typically grimy underworld.

The award is named after France’s famed mid-twentieth-century writer Anais Nin who was one of the few to write in both English and French and be translated in both directions. Despentes, 45, is well-known in France for a controversial and confrontational series of books and films informed by her past work in a massage parlor in the southern city of Lyons. Among the film adaptations are ��Pretty Things�� starring Marion Cotillard and feminist revenge flick ��Rape Me.��

��Vernon Subutex 1�� treads familiar territory for Despentes, following a former record-store owner who becomes destitute and finds himself homeless and drifting among a motley crew of ex-porn stars, coked-up filmmakers and neo-Nazis. The prize ��rewards a singular voice and sensibility, an originality of imagination and audacity in the face of the moral order,�� the organizers said in a statement.

As part of the award, which aims to put the spotlight on Francophone writers yet to make a splash in the huge English-language market, ��Vernon Subutex 1�� will be translated into English.