Michel Houellebecq’s novels are not for the morally conscientious, replete as they are with what is euphemistically called “explicit content”. Neither are they safe reading for the snowflakes or the politically correct of this world.
But there is certainly something uncanny about the man’s apparent gift for reading the times we live in, and even giving us advance warning of the times we will be living in. Also, while he’s thoroughly French, he doesn’t give his countrymen an easy time.
The publication of his last novel, Submission, imagined a time – not far from now – wehen a Muslim France elects a Muslim president. On the day of its publication Islamic terrorists went into the offices of the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, and slaughtered everyone they could find. People found the coincidence – because that is what it was – a bit unsettling.
M. Houellebecq’s latest work, Sérotonine, is now being seen in France as another piece of semi-prophesy. He began writing it more than two years ago but seems to tell us about the current street protests against President Emmanuel Macron by gilets jaunes (yellow jackets).
Houellebecq and Macron are in fact friends. Whether this puts a strain on their friendship remains to be seen.
An article in The Spectator last week noted Houellebecq’s “willingness to speak his mind in an age of stifling literary conformity. This has earned him the predictable epithet of the ‘enfant terrible’ of French literature.”
“In a recent interview with Harper’s Magazine he didn’t shy away from this reputation. Not only did he dare to suggest that Donald Trump was doing a good job, but he then described the EU as ‘a dumb idea that has gradually turned into a bad dream’. Houellebecq is no Anglophile but he admitted that in voting for Brexit, ‘the British had once again shown themselves to be more courageous than us in the face of empire’.”
We might wonder how Napoleon Barnier might like that?