Submission by Michel Houellebecq
Original title – Soumission
Translator – Lorin Stein
Source – Personnel copy
Well when I started to look back on books that came out last year that may make the Man booker longlist this was one of the first on my list of books I hadn’t read and I was lucky to find a half price copy in my local waterstones. I have read Houellebecq before I have found him a challenging writer if a little to obsessed with sex for my liking. But this was a book I had to read given the events it was caught up in as we maybe all know the week of the Charlie Hebdo the cover star the week of the attack with a review of this very book. Houellebecq then stood back from promotion of this book.
So it goes, in the remaining western social democracies, when you finish your studies, but most students don’t notice right away because they’re hypnotised by the desire for money or, if they’re more primitive, the desire for consumer goods (though these cases of acute product-addiction are unusual: the mature, thoughtful majority develop a fascination with that” tireless Proteus”, money itself). Above all they’re hypnotised by the desire to make their mark, to carve out an enviable social position in a world that they believe indeed hope will be competitive, galvanised as they are by worship of fleeting icons: athletes, fashion or web designers, film stars and models
Maybe in the opening lines Houellebecq capture the modern world of greed and celeb we live in !!
The book in question is submission is set in a near distant future of France 2020 and the story is told from the world of Francois, he is an academic who has spent his whole life studying the life and works of the 19th century French writer Joris-Karl Huysman. His life has a pattern even his relationships which early on he says seem to take a yearly cycle with his academic year. He is wound up so much in his life , so much so that he seems to have missed what is going on in his homeland till this point which is breaking point. The country has seen a decade of governments fail and people get disillusioned with their leaders and into this vacuum that has come at the top of French politics is a far right leader based on the real Marie Le pen and a Ben Abbes the leader of a Muslim party, now the unthinkable happens and these to get to form an alliance and then Ben Abbes grasps power and starts to impose Muslim law on the country. Now Francois starts to taste a new life where have multiple wives and women have to treat men differently is acceptable but also this quite man sees his life has shifted.A scary look at a terrifying future.
Beneath these surface agitations, France was undergoing deep and rapid change. It turned out that some of Ben Abbe’s ideas had nothing to do with Islam; during press conference he declared ( to general bafflement) that he was profoundly influences by distrubutism. He had actually said so before, several times on the campaign trail, but since journalists have a natural tendency to ignore what they don’t understand, no one paid attention and he’d let it drop
I love the fact they had missed the fact a lot of Abbe’s views follow a catholic theory that was missed by the press.
Now this is a clever look at what could happen if a path is taken the more one side grows say the far right parties and their supporters, their naturally has to be another side to counter act the rise of the other so the two main political figures in this book aren’t to far from the real people they are based on and in a way the fact that a far right and Muslim party would join together in a coalition shows in a way how similar some of their views may be. Then we have a juxtapose view of this book and the main book of Huysman Canon A rebours a study of a man and living a decadent lifestyle in a world of freedom.Is viewed by a woman hating man in the present day that maybe sees the fact of no freedoms as having the ultimate freedom.I maybe found Francois a little creepy and in a way a typical lead character in a Houellebecq novel. But this is a clever view on France and the way things could happen if things don’t change.
Have you read this book or any by Houellebecq ?