"Cher Connard" by Virginie Despentes is far from being a simple novel on #MeToo

“Cher Connard” by Virginie Despentes is far from being a simple novel on #MeToo

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French author Virginie Despentes speaks to the press upon her arrival at the Drouant restaurant in Paris before the announcement of the winner of the French literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, on November 4, 2019. (Photo by DOMINIQUE FAGET / AFP)
DOMINIQUE FAGET / AFP French author Virginie Despentes speaks to the press upon her arrival at the Drouant restaurant in Paris before the announcement of the winner of the French literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, on November 4, 2019. (Photo by DOMINIQUE FAGET / AFP)
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DOMINIQUE FAGET / AFP

Virginie Despentes, here in November 2019, in Paris.

LITERATURE – This is the event of this literary season. This Wednesday, August 17, the best-selling author Virginie Despentes returns to bookstores, five years after the publication of the last volume of Vernon Subutexwith a new novel with the most biting title, Dear assholepublished by Grasset editions.

His story is that of a man and a woman, two stars in decline. The first is called Oscar Jayack. A successful writer, he is accused of having sexually harassed his former press secretary, who has become an ultra-followed feminist blogger. Public opinion is against him. The second, Rebecca Latté, is an actress. Since she turned fifty, contracts no longer knock on her door.

Their meeting will never happen. It is in writing – interposed letters – that they will exchange. Everything starts (badly) the day Oscar writes a scandalous comment on the physique of Rebecca, whom he met in Paris. Neither one nor two, this one answers him by email. ” Dear asshole, I read what you posted on your Insta account. You’re like a pigeon who shit on my shoulder “, she begins.

The story could have ended there. Oscar could have kept quiet, made himself small. But no, he responds. ” It was virulent », replies the latter. Oscar explains to her that he knows her. They grew up together. Her sister had a crush on her. Rebecca doesn’t really care. He keeps on. He feels he can confide. He tells her what he’s been going through, his feeling of loneliness since he ” got metooized “.

About #MeToo

#MeToo, the stage is set. ” It’s true that in publishing, we’re lagging behind there “Blows the actress in one of her letters. He is ashamed. Not because he did (he doesn’t understand), but because he thinks he took a jacket, ” because I told her that I was madly in love and that she didn’t want to hear anything “.

On her blog, the one who accuses her, a certain Zoé Katana, says she belongs ” to the army of abused girls who come out of silence “. She no longer wants to be silent. ” You can find me, threaten me, insult me. It won’t change anything. We lift the lead screed. Shame must change sides “, she says.

Rebecca makes fun of Oscar’s lament. She don’tdo not make the victim’s word sacredshe says. Of course, sometimes women lie. […] But the percentage of storytellers remains tiny among the victims, while the percentage of rapists among the male population should alert you to the deterioration of your sexualities. »

The words used by our two heroines echo current feminist discourse. Those of Oscar, to the male resistance sometimes heard about #MeToo. Here, Virginie Despentes does not deliver a guide to good conduct, on what to think or do. No, the novelist draws up a fiction, a kind of observation of our time inclined to duality, good and bad, where everything is not black or white.

Covid-19, containment and TikTok

RuPaul’s Drag RaceTikTok, Drake… Dear asshole is full of references to the pop culture of our time. We are deliberately at the turn of the 2020s. As in a season of More beautiful lifethe novel incorporates key moments from current French events.

It is about the beginnings of the Covid-19 pandemic, when Rebecca returns from a short stay in Barcelona with her arms full of hydroalcoholic gel. because in Paris it seems that you can’t find any and in the space of a week, I have the impression that people are only thinking about that “. But also deconfinement, when she observes with suspicion a group of young people outside, “ one is wearing the mask, another has it down on his neck, the other two are not wearing one “.

These impressions speak to us, they anchor us in reality to better tell us about the evils of our sexist society. ” We support very well the idea that women are killed by men, for the sole reason that they are women “Blows Rebecca, echoing the feminicides. As for motherhood and mothers, I especially notice that we always have something to say about the way they take care of the little onesshe adds. […] Deception. Mothers, they do what they can. »

A derailed society

The former movie star calls out the ageism of his industry. ” You wanna know what it’s like to get canceled? Talk to an actress my age. […] For most of us, this purgatory begins in our thirties. And I don’t know a solidarity comedian “, she notes, which is reminiscent of the fact that in France only 8% of roles were attributed to women over 50, in 2019.

Diets, beauty standards, “male gaze”… Everything goes, when Oscar himself evokes his insecurities vis-à-vis the codes of masculinity. ” I am weakling. I am not thin. I’m not an elegant guy, a vine, a thin guy. I am thin “, he regrets. His point is not mocked. His interlocutor takes him seriously.

This reveals the evolution of the exchanges between our two characters who, over the course of the story, learn to listen to each other. Even if they don’t mince words, they move on, confide in each other about their doubts, their fears. They advise each other, particularly on their drug use. In a derailed society, their budding friendship soothes them. The ” Dear asshole from the beginnings would become almost endearing. Like an ironic preamble to the start of a guide to surviving 2022.

See also on The HuffPost : At the demonstration for Adama Traoré, Virginie Despentes and Vikash Dhorasoo also thought of Camélia Jordana

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