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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.



In many ways, the journey of Huysmans in becoming a catholic can be compared to Francois' journey to becoming a Muslim at the very end of the novel. Personally Huysmans did not ring a bell with me before (maybe it was lost information but whenever I saw the name, I thought of Kevin Hulsmans, a belgian cyclist)



There is also the other thing in the name that Francois being France and while France becomes indifferent and this influences it to support Ben Abbes, same goes with Francois who has no real strong feelings either way on religion and becomes Muslim at the end.



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.


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Edited by iff
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  • 4 years later...

The book is set in France in the year 2022 where, with the help of the socialists, a Muslim political party is elected into government. This is the premise of Houellebecq's controversial novel. The book follows an academic called Francois who teaches literature at a university and specializes in the work of Huysmans. Before long, only Muslims can teach at the University and he loses his job. Meanwhile, education is altered and women are taken out of the workforce.

Francois struggles with his place in the world and seeks answers. Like in most of Houellebecqs books, he finds none, and only acknowledges the futility of western civilisation. And that's what the book is about: the west's slow march into irrelevance. Some have accused Houellebecq of stoking the fires (the book was published the day of the Charlie Hebdo massacre) but that's too simplistic. As I said, this is far less a criticism of Islam and far more a criticism of the West and its atomised and directionless culture. Not to mention its apparent willingness to sleepwalk into obscurity.

I must say I didn't find the transformation of French society from secular to Muslim very convincing and Houellebecq doesn't spend much time justifying that. Most speculative novels of this nature would have involved a slow build up of some kind but since it was published in 2015, Houellebecq clearly isn't very interested in doing that. For him, this is clearly a satire where the sci-fi nature of the plot is somewhat irrelevant. He wants to play around with themes rather than give you a convincing dystopian narrative.

Truth be told, this was one of the most readable books I've ever come across. I fizzed through it. The story isn't that compelling and never really goes anywhere in terms of plot but the writing is wonderful and fluid, with short chapters that fly by as Francois explores art and religion and love and the death of Europe.


The bottom line is: if you kill your own culture, don't start moaning when something fills the void.

So many books lack the beauty and the balls of Houellebecq.




Edited by hux
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