If you know anything about French politics, you will know that the title of this post – DSK – stands for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a man who famously had two of the top jobs within his grasp as well as a very rich wife and managed to lose all three for, allegedly, a bit of sexual titillation. I say allegedly because the case against him collapsed because of the unreliability of the maid he allegedly assaulted, so he was not convicted. However, since that event, other women have come forward, claiming to have been sexually assaulted by him and he is currently facing prosecution for pimping, a charge he denies. Whether any or all the allegations are true, what is certain is that he lost his job as Managing Director of the IMF, that he had to abandon his candidacy for the French presidency (though that could be revived) and he and his wife divorced. What has this got to do with literature? According to Le Figaro, there are now 58 books about him. Some of these include novels – I have read one of these, though written by a Spanish, not a French writer. I had been quite reluctant to read the book but I thought it was brilliant; it should be translated into English but probably won’t be.
There are several other novels about DSK, written by French writers and, as far as I can tell, none has been translated into English. Currently the most famous is Régis Jauffret (link is to English Wikipedia site which does not have the DSK on it). His book, La ballade de Rikers Island is about DSK and DSK is suing him for this. Jauffret has form in this area. His book Sévère was about the banker Edouard Stern and his murder. His family tried to have the book banned but later withdrew their demands (details here – French only). His book Claustria, on the Fritzl case was also controversial. Another writer who has faced the wrath of DSK is Marcela Iacub, an Argentina-born French writer. She wrote a book about an affair she had with a famous person, wittily called La Bella et la Bête [Beauty and the Beast]. His name was not mentioned but, later, in an interview she said that the man was DSK. She also said that he was half-pig, half-man. DSK sued, and her publisher and the Nouvel Observateur, which had published an extract, were fined and the publisher had to insert a leaflet in each copy of the book outlining DSK’s position. Iacub’s stance was not helped by the fact that, earlier, she had written articles in favour of DSK, without mentioning that they were having an affair. Stéphane Zagdanski’s Chaos brûlant [Burning Chaos] recounts the reactions of the DSK affair to the patients at the Manhattan Psychiatric Center, while Marc Weitzmann’s Une matière inflammable [An Inflammable Affair] tells the story of a young man who works for a highly successful couple who are clearly based on DSK and Anne Sinclair. Doubtless there will be others, though Michel Taubmann’s Le Roman vrai de DSK [The True Novel of DSK] is, in fact, non-fiction.
France has had plenty of cases of writers, particularly autofiction writers, writing about real people and getting into trouble for it. Christine Angot wrote about her ex-lover. His previous partner recognised herself in Angot’s books and sued. Raphaël Duroy was a bit annoyed to find, in a book by his father, Lionel Duroy, an actual email he had sent to his father. He sued the publisher. Christine Fizscher’s novel La Dernière Femme de sa vie [The Last Woman of His Life]. Dan Franck’s novel La Séparation was about his separation from his wife, Elisabeth. The result was that she asked for a divorce. Anasthasie Tudieshe, however, sued her ex Nicolas Fargues for the portrait of her in his J’étais derrière toi [I Was Behind You] but lost. However when Catherine Breillat wrote of Christophe Rocancourt that he scratched his balls on the sofa, he won 1 Euro damages. There have been many more, with the rise in autofiction, some of which have ended up in court and some have just ended in tears. Which is one reason why, on the whole, I do not like autofiction but prefer a novel made up entirely from the imagination. However, the DSK story is larger than life – after all even lovers of novelists are unlikely to lose two major world jobs and a very rich wife for a bit of sexual titillation, so I have read one DSK novel and may well try one or two others.