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The many voices of Subutex

21 October 2022
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International Translation Centre (Hall 4.0 G101)

Discussion about the translation of the polyphony of the original into German. Who speaks and why just like that? How much social commentary is still understandable in the translation? And how does the medium influence the text?


  • Lilian Pithan (Translator)
  • Claudia Steinitz (Translator)

The Vernon Subutex trilogy by Virginie Despentes is a bestseller in France. The epic adventures of an ageing record seller - through Paris, its parks, and ultimately the whole of France - is sprinkled with pop culture quotations and is often read as a socio-political commentary. The novel's strength comes from the polyphony of these voices: Each chapter gives the floor to a different character, from Vernon himself to his old friends to the mysterious "hyena". Due to its success, the novel was adapted several times for the stage and in 2019 Canal+ brought it to French television. In 2020, a comic strip was published by Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Luz.

In cooperation with Weltlesebühne e.V.