Ann Scott, a renowned French author, described her experience during her techno years as a time filled with great drugs, music, and sex.
She is celebrated as the leading figure in the Paris techno scene and her book Superstars, which captures the wild and competitive atmosphere of 1990s France’s dancefloors and rave parties, has gained a devoted following. Ann Scott, who was recently awarded the esteemed Renaudot prize, beautifully documented the experiences of Paris’s generation X, from LGBTQ+ clubs to hard house music, drawing from her personal background and providing a distinct perspective on the underground culture.
At the age of 12 in 1977, this person’s parents from Paris sent them to Shoreham-by-Sea in England for the summer with the intention of improving their English skills and playing tennis. However, the person ended up running away from their host family to hang out with bands on Kings Road in London. This became a recurring pattern every summer, and by the age of 13 they were even offered heroin by some of London’s top punk rockers. By 15, they were drumming in a band and at 16, they identified as a skinhead. By 18, they were modeling for London designers like John Galliano and appearing in magazines like i-D and the Face. Looking back, they remember how fashion was constantly evolving and how they were able to freely express themselves.
After nearly a quarter of a century since Scott became a cult figure for Superstars, she is experiencing a resurgence. Her novel Les Insolents, which earned her the Renaudot prize, deviates from the style of her previous acclaimed work. Taking place in a secluded area on the coast of Brittany, it follows the tale of a composer from Paris who works on Marvel films and relocates to a rural home she has only viewed in pictures.
Scott’s books have been quickly reprinted and repackaged following the win, and are now being sold in airports and train stations. They have been praised for their clever portrayal of modern French life. Additionally, critics are revisiting Scott’s highly acclaimed 2017 novel, Cortex, which tells the story of a domestic terror attack at an Oscars award ceremony and explores the aftermath of surviving violence through twists and turns. While the book has a French perspective on Hollywood, it also reflects France’s collective sense of despair following the 2015 terrorist attacks.
Scott, who is now 58 years old, smiles as she recalls the sudden surge of attention while sitting in her publisher’s office in Paris. It is a far cry from her current home on the untamed coast of Finistère where she relocated three years ago. On the day she received the prize, she confesses to feeling overwhelmed and thinking, “Oh my God, I need to start working on the next one.” In a quiet corner at the celebratory party, she managed to write just two sentences.
The title of Les Insolents refers to the bold and rebellious attitude necessary to overcome difficult situations. This work combines elements of humor and tragedy, revealing the highs and lows of Parisian friendships among unconventional and artistic individuals. These are the kind of companions one would want by their side during the apocalypse, as the story delves into family secrets and unexpected meetings on a beach.
According to Scott, the book is not focused on bourgeois-bohemian individuals from Paris relocating to rural areas to become self-sufficient by making bread or raising goats. The main character, who initially struggles, must arrange for a taxi to travel to the distant supermarket, and the problematic house almost takes on its own persona. Instead, the book’s appeal lies in its exploration of the concept of solitude in the aftermath of Covid lockdowns.
Many individuals struggle with being alone, according to the speaker. If one cannot be alone, it implies that unless they have found a long-term partner, they will likely end up with incompatible people, which is an undesirable situation.
If her novels so carefully portray being alone, it’s always in contrast to her masterful depictions of in-crowds and subcultures. Scott (the name is a pseudonym) was born in Paris to an art-collector father and a mother of Russian descent, a photographer who later retrained as a therapist.
She resided in a Brixton squat during the 1980s in London before moving to artists’ studios where she would exchange cleaning services for lodging. She would often stand in line with familiar faces from television’s Top of the Pops as they waited for their dole payments, as they were just starting to make a name for themselves but were not yet financially stable. This was during the decline of the New Romantics era, a time of great excitement where everyone aspired to be a celebrity. Glitter and drag queens were all the rage, with icons like Boy George and Pete Burns of Dead or Alive making appearances. The fashion and shops were also a big part of the scene. According to her, it was a time when people strived to be heroes or stars, whether they were 17 years old, stuck in dead-end jobs, or unemployed. On Friday nights, they would put in extra effort to become kings or princes. Despite their circumstances, they were all beautiful because they could become anyone they wanted to be.
Expressing oneself through various forms of art, such as music, painting, singing, and collage, and experiencing the closeness of the London party scene would ultimately influence her future novels in France. The constant companionship and physical closeness with others in this social environment was a defining aspect of her experiences. While there was also a presence of sexual encounters, it was not the primary focus, with a stronger emphasis on tenderness rather than seduction.
During her 20s in Paris, she independently learned how to write. Each decade, she would dedicate herself to studying one particular author, often revisiting the same book. Currently, that book is Don DeLillo’s Underworld. Her debut novel, Asphyxie, was influenced by iconic bands Nirvana and the Sex Pistols, and follows the journey of a touring band. Superstars began as a personal diary documenting her experiences within a close-knit group of friends centered around DJ Sex Toy, a popular figure in Paris’s underground queer club scene.
During that time, the drugs, music, and sex were enjoyable, but we were young. To cope with my heartbreak, I began writing a diary at home, which eventually turned into a book. Now, the author feels distant from the book. However, she still excels at portraying relationships with both genders. She dismisses any notion of being a representative for bisexuality in modern French literature, stating that what truly matters is finding someone who can tolerate you and who you want to wake up next to in the morning.
Scott’s earlier works have been compared to those of Virginie Despentes, a former punk and literary rebel. They even briefly shared an apartment. Scott reached out to her after reading her first book and they met at a Courtney Love concert. At the time, Scott was living in a place he didn’t enjoy and Despentes invited him to stay with her. They were both struggling writers and often scavenged for food, even going to bakeries at closing time to ask for unsold bread. Despentes is a unique and admirable person.
In 2019, Scott departed from Paris to go to Brittany after completing her 2020 book, La Grâce et les Ténèbres. The novel focuses on individuals in France who participate in citizen-run cyber groups to monitor online jihadist propaganda. These volunteers dedicate their spare time to tracking suspected Islamist accounts in an effort to thwart potential attacks. For her research, Scott spent two years viewing disturbing videos on the internet.
“Afterwards, it wasn’t a necessity for me to be at the beach; rather, I desired to escape from people, the hustle and bustle of the city, and all the noise. I longed for a beach with a wild, rugged, and windswept landscape. I craved violence, but only in the form of nature’s raw force, not human aggression.” The book she wrote while in Brittany, Les Insolents, is described as “a reflection on silence,” according to the author.
Scott often fills the silence by conversing with “ghosts” in her mind, which serve as her imaginary mentors ranging from David Bowie to Miles Davis. Among these figures is fashion designer Alexander McQueen, whom she had known during her time in London. She explains that when she talks to him, their conversations revolve around creativity and she asks for his guidance in avoiding producing subpar work and taking the easy route. She admires McQueen’s ability to find beauty in the most unexpected places and his compassionate nature, and seeks his reassurance that everything will be alright.
Scott’s writing explores the dichotomy between glamorous social events in Paris and extravagant Hollywood affairs, and the vulnerability of human existence, particularly in the midst of a crowd. “Les Insolents” serves as a dialogue between the bustling city and the quiet, untamed wilderness. The author suggests that while problems may weigh heavily on one’s mind in a busy urban environment, they can lose their significance when one is alone on a peaceful beach.
Scott understands the value of facing the unpleasant and hopeless aspects of life. However, it is crucial to also fortify oneself and shield against these challenges in order to effectively cope with the pain. According to Scott, experiencing hurt is acceptable as long as you possess the ability to heal and improve. Without experiencing hurt, you won’t have anything meaningful to share.