Marie Darrieussecq


We send all orders via Royal Mail: within the UK, choose from 1st Class, 2nd Class or Special Delivery; for the rest of the world, International Standard or International Tracked. Delivery and packaging charges are calculated automatically at the checkout.

To collect orders in person from the Bookshop, choose Click and Collect at the checkout.

Fitzcarraldo Editions
16 August 2023
ISBN: 9781804270653
272 pages

From the publisher

Translated by Penny Hueston

Plagued by insomnia for twenty years, Marie Darrieussecq turns her attention to the causes, implications and consequences of sleeplessness: a nocturnal suffering that culminates at 4 a.m. and then defines the next day. In Sleepless, she recounts her own experiences alongside those of fellow insomniacs, mostly writers – ‘as if writing were not sleeping’ – Ovid, Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, Marguerite Duras, Franz Kafka, Georges Perec and others. With her inimitable humour, she describes her dealings with a somnologist and her attempts to find a remedy – trying sleeping pills, cannabis, alcohol, bedtime rituals, acupuncture, yoga, hypnosis, psychoanalysis, a gravity blanket and a range of sleep-aid devices. Darrieussecq considers bedrooms, beds, clinophilia (‘the tendency to remain in a prone position without sleeping for prolonged periods of time’), her need to be alone in bed, those without beds, the homeless, refugees, trauma and capitalism’s role in sleeplessness, our constant wakefulness online, the forest as a hypnagogic zone and how our relationship with animals is connected to our sleep, or lack of it. Ranging between autobiography, clinical observation and criticism, Sleepless is a graceful, inventive meditation by one of the most daring, inventive novelists writing today.

‘Marie Darrieussecq invites us on an extended patrol of the corridors of Hotel Insomnia in the company of the ghosts of the famous sleep-deprived, then turns to the story of her own intimate tussle with sleep that will not come. Amid the torrent of publications in the new sleep science, this is the only book I know that concedes to sleep its proper majesty and its own dark poetry.’
— J. M. Coetzee

‘Splendidly translated by Penny Hueston, this is a brilliantly creative and playful meditation on the disturbing reality of insomnia, one that weaves together Darrieussecq’s own experiences with quotations, images and biographical anecdotes from other sleep-deprived writers.’
— P. D. Smith, Guardian

‘Darrieussecq commands the essay-in-fragments’ accretive logic, and her stylish bricolage is thrilling in its breadth. Hang on, did she just trace a line from Bloomsbury to the Playboy Mansion, connecting Virginia Woolf and Anna Nicole Smith via shared yearnings for chemical oblivion?’
— Rebecca Harkins-Cross, The Monthly 

‘On the page [Sleepless is] fragmentary, footnoted and studded with photos and illustrations. It’s panoramic in its survey of insomniac literature, and also softly intimate where it touches on the author’s own life. In its range and genre it’s unpindownable. Darrieussecq is one of the most prolific and distinguished living writers in France with a truly impressive body of work. All her familiar acuity, humour, humility and intensity are evident in Sleepless.’
— Samantha Harvey, Guardian

‘Sleepless is a peculiar book, though it captures the skittering, jittery mood of an insomniac's “white forgetfulness”, of what it’s like to be simultaneously over-stimulated and over-stretched.’ 
— Roger Lewis, Telegraph

‘Darrieussecq is a prolific and much-lauded novelist, psychoanalyst, and translator; she has also, for a significant portion of her life, been hopelessly unable to sleep. Sleepless tells the story of this near-unrelenting affliction, a recount couched in prose that is, by turns, distractedly diaristic, a socio-political tract, grimly funny, and heartbreaking – all inflected by the dreamy logic of chronic wakefulness. It is the kind of book likely to keep a reader just as wide-eyed.’
— Jack Barron, The Arts Desk 

‘[D]arrieussecq writes as she takes us through treatments (wine, pills), rituals (counting lovers) and other practices (burrowing, gravity blankets). As her investigation expands it pulls in psychiatry, sorcery, genocide, street lighting, first husbands, lobotomies, the despoliation of nature. Drawing on her journals, previously published works, travels, personal photographs and memories of the pandemic years, the result is itself a bit like a sleepless night: hypnagogic, discursive.’
— David Terrien, ArtReview 

‘An exhilarating book that kept me up and got me thinking.’
— Le Canard Enchaîné

‘A funny, moving, metaphysical and novelistic self-portrait that is also a portrait of our times.’
— Elle

Sleepless reaches far into our sleepless nights.... The result is a masterful work on the art of sleep.’
— Les Inrockuptibles

‘An exciting and poetic work, both an intimate narrative and a meditative essay.’
— Télérama

‘A hypnotic, inexhaustible book.’
— Philosophie Magazine

Sleepless is an amazing text, between prose and document, reflection and quotation, from Kant to the film Alien, from Kafka to Gilles Barbier, from Gabon to the Basque country, and through various hotel rooms occupied by sleepless nights.... If what we read is extremely intimate and personal, everything about us, everything in us, can also be found in these pages. One can read Sleepless to project oneself into an insomniac sister; one can read it for the author’s sparkling stories and analyses, for her incredibly smart readings of Kafka and Perec, or for her reflections on capitalism, burn-out and the race for productivity that repudiates everything that does not fit into its master plan.’
— Diacritik