Nadja Spiegelman at the NYRB:
Underlying all of Despentes’s work is the concept of rape. It is the omnipresent possibility through which everything is refracted. There’s a war going on, her books insist, not so much between men and women as on men and women, waged through the constructs of gender. Masculinity, for Despentes, is the artillery that tears our bodies apart, while femininity is the drug of mass indoctrination. What she had learned from punk rock, she once said, was to look clearly at the world and declare it rotten.
In the 1990s French literature was breaking open, and the literary scene was making room for postcolonial writers, provocateurs (notably Michel Houellebecq), and women (notably women who, writing frankly about sex and desire, were also deemed provocateurs). Twenty-seven-year-old Marie Darrieussecq’s Pig Tales: A Novel of Lust and Transformation (1996), a fable narrated by a woman who slowly transforms into a pig, was, in the author’s words, about “the metamorphosis of a female object into a conscious woman.”