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  1. Review of Submission by Michel Houellebecq, translated by Lorin Stein The controversial novel from Michel Houellebecq as if he'd write any thing but controversial text. In this novel as various articles about it referred to is that the Muslim Brotherhood wins the French presidential election in the run off against Marine Le Pen so their candidate, Ben Abbes takes over from Hollande in 2022 (so this is not a prophetic novel, complete fiction ) . Hoellebecq in a previous novel, the woeful Platform had long long anti-Muslim rants and I worried there could be the same in this. The main character is Francois, a senior professor in a Paris University on literature, his specialist writer being the 19th century novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans. He regularly spends the year in a relationship with one of his students. Currently it is a Jewish girl called Myriam. Francois is probably also the most outgoing and social main character for a Houellebecq novel, occasionally attending functions and accepting dinner invitations although when compared to the others, this wasn't hard. Some usual tropes of his are also present - bad/non-existent parental links, , detailed sexual content. I am intrigued with a few paragraphs on the flaws of nationalism on page 215 though my biggest conclusion being those in academic world who convert to Islam to keep their jobs are those that previously had nativist/national front connections and the imagined France under Abbes' Muslim Brotherhood being the Frances that liberals/left-wingers/socialists etc would be against but the support of these groups in the run of was what got Abbes elected only to see Abbes bring in policies contrary to these. I see this more than a critique on Islam/Muslim,it is more I feel a satire on politics in general and I think shots are taking against all sides. I quite enjoyed this novel. Some Houellebecq novels have been terrible (Platform and Whatever) and some have been excellent (Atomised and The Possibility of an Island). This fits in as not being his greatest work but very good nonetheless. * * * *
  2. "The Map & The Territory" is the latest novel from French author Michel Houellebecq. The main character, Jed Martin, is an artistic photographer and like most Houellebecq lead characters, leads a life in seclusion from the majority of humanity. (He sees his father once a year for Christmas dinner. Actually this would demonstrate better human relations than other Houellebecq main characters). In part 1 of the book , it deals with Jed Martin's early life including his exhibition of photos of Michelin maps and the relationship he had with Olga. Part 2 of the book deals with Martin's new exhibition. Martin has moved from photography to painting and in the next exhibition, set 10 years after the first exhibition, he paints occupations in which he is trying to convince the great novelist Michel Houellebecq (i believe a fictionalised version of Houellebecq based on the views of critics of his. The author Houellebecq takes many a shot at the character of Houellebecq which i believe a critic of Houellebecq would really enjoy apart from it being written by Houellebecq) to write the guide to the paintings for the exhibition. In part 3, Martin is asked to assist in an utterly gruesome murder (this is on the back of the book. therefore if it's a spoiler, then it's the publisher's spoiler) I found this is be darkly brilliant writing. I do not like the gruesome nature of murders in general or most things. However the victim being who it was made it a whole lot easier to read. It does lack the standard Houellebecq controversial subject matter, however he does get his shots in in wonderful although somewhat controversial writing (which i personally may not agree with). This includes an observation about the type of people he gets onto a shuttle bus to the airport with being those unproductive members of society (maybe including himself as an artist in that category?) And of course there is the standard Houellebecq anti-sexual/anti-procreation rant in there that was strewn in both "Atomised" and "possibility of an island" There had been the notion of controversy in terms of plagiarism. After reading this book. I think this was just blown out of proportion. The book is a commentary on the world we live in, how maybe Western Europe has lost it in terms of creating/building stuff and have now rely on other less important things. While the father was an architect, his architecture work was mostly to do with tourist resort rather than something practical. The loss of the practical nature of Europe is at the heart of the book The book also deals with love, personal relationships (in 1)lack of and 2)end of) and a fraught father/son relationship, money, the role of the artist in society and the decline of the individual and possibility humanity in general. This is a nihilistic view of the world. Overall i did really enjoy this book and it was just superbly written. *****
  3. I almost didn't finish this, but gave it a second chance and did, eventually, huff and puff my way through. I hadn't read anything else by MH and bought this last summer in France because it had a "Prix des lecteurs" ("Readers' choice") sticker. I know that isn't the most scientific of reasons, but I'm sure we all judge a book (at least sometimes!) by its cover. The central question with which the book begins is: "Who among us is worthy of eternal life?" The book explores this and there are some interesting philosophical debates between various characters. However, the book should have been half as long (200 ish pages instead of 400 ish). I got the point and it annoyed me that the author laboured it so much. There are two narratives in the book: those of Daniel and his cloned successors. Daniel is a comedian whose twin obsessions are sex and ageing. Actually, one obsession - sex; he only appears interested in ageing to the extent that it will affect his ability to fall in love and have sex. His narrative is partly about his life, loves etc and partly about him meeting a sect called the Elohim (a google search reveals that the sect appears at least partly based on a real-life organisation) which strives to find a way to create eternal life for its adherents. In order to join the Elohim and (eventually) achieve eternal life, all members really have to do is bequeath their earthly possessions to the sect when they die. So, apparently, the answer to who is worthy of eternal life, appears to be anyone cynical enough to join the sect - there is no real moral or philosophical basis for the sect. The narrative of the cloned successors is more interesting. They are 24th and 25th generation successors to the original Daniel. They live cut off from anyone else in a world which has undergone several catastrophic global events, apparently killing the majority of humans, leaving only a few "savages". Their only contact is via the internet. Their physical needs have been pared down to light, heat, water and salt. Slowly, the Daniel clone realises that this life is unfulfilling - no society, no individual decisions, no fulfilment. So much for eternal life. Daniel25 breaks out and the end of the book is about what he finds. I am glad I soldiered on to the end, but I won't be reading any other MH. I think the same subject matter with a different author would have been more enjoyable. MH seems to want to shock the reader (lots of swearing, anti-Islamic comments and explicit sex), but I wasn't shocked, I was just annoyed and wanted him to get on with his exploration of his themes! Zebra
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