Unterwerfung Roman

by Michel Houellebecq

Other authorsNorma Cassau (Translator)
Hardcover, 2015



Call number

IH 51110 U61



Köln DuMont 2015


In a near-future France, François, a middle-aged academic, is watching his life slowly dwindle to nothing. His sex drive is diminished, his parents are dead, and his lifelong obsession--the ideas and works of the novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans--has led him nowhere. In a late-capitalist society where consumerism has become the new religion, François is spiritually barren, but seeking to fill the vacuum of his existence. And he is not alone. As the 2022 Presidential election approaches, two candidates emerge as favorites: Marine Le Pen of the Front National, and Muhammed Ben Abbes of the nascent Muslim Fraternity. Forming a controversial alliance with the mainstream parties, Ben Abbes sweeps to power, and overnight the country is transformed. Islamic law comes into force: women are veiled, polygamy is encouraged and, for François, life is set on a new course.… (more)

Media reviews

Submission is not a simple provocation. It is a deep, gripping and haunting novel which proves a culmination point of Houellebecq’s work so far and, in my view, a recent high-point for European fiction. I can think of no writer currently working who can get anywhere near Houellebecq’s
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achievement in finding a fictional way into the darkest and most necessary corners of our time. Nor can I think of another writer currently working who would be able to write a novel of this depth, scope and relevance while also making it witty and page-turning. The most intelligent criticism to date has come from reviewers who have objected to one layer of the novel which relates to the academic specialism of the main character. Francois is a typical Houellebecq leading man: a middle-aged academic whose parents’ deaths have no effect on him, who has short relationships with his younger female students and who since separating from an attractive young Jewish student, with whom he still intermittently has sex, switches to prostitutes though finds his libido insufficiently diverted. When Francois flees the looming chaos in Paris by going to the significantly chosen town of Martel in the south of France he tries to interest himself in Cro-Magnon man. At one point he reflects, “Cro-Magnon man hunted mammoth and reindeer; the man of today can choose between an Auchan and a Leclerc, both supermarkets located in Souillac.”
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Houellebecq signaleert een tendens, een kiem, en zijn roman is de broeikas waarin hij het proces versnelt en tot het uiterste doordenkt. Als je zo’n fictie in kort bestek navertelt krijgt dat onvermijdelijk iets karikaturaals, maar binnen deze roman voltrekken de veranderingen zich gestaag,
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subtiel en in grote lijnen overtuigend. Wat daar ook aan bijdraagt: het is, voor wie ontvankelijk is voor zijn humor, weer een echt geestige Houellebecq, de grappigste sinds Platform.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member pamelad
When it seems that Marine Le Pen's National Front has an even chance of winning the 2022 French elections, the Socialists and a centre-right party, the UMP, form a coalition with the apparently moderate Muslim Fraternity to make sure of defeating the racist, far-right National Front. The narrator
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clearly describes the compromises the parties must make, the long-held policies the socialists and the UMP must sacrifice, in order to make a deal. After the coalition wins the election, the Islamic religion and culture subsume French society. Women disappear from public life, the school leaving age is lowered to twelve, social welfare payments are eliminated, only Islamic educational institutions are publicly funded, Jews emigrate en masse, and men take multiple wives, some as young as fifteen.

Francois, the narrator, is a professor of literature at the Sorbonne, specialising in Huysmans, best known for Against the Grain, published in 1884, about the decadent life of the wealthy, aristocratic Des Esseintes, who was based partly on the infamous Robert de Montesquiou, who was also a model for Proust's Baron Charlus. Huysmans is a recurring theme in Submission. Francois compares the decadence of contemporary French society to the decadence of Huysmans' time, and the imposition of Islamic religion and culture to Huysmans eventually embracing the Catholic church. In order to keep his job at the Sorbonne, Francois would have to convert to Islam.

This is a comedy, but I gasped before I laughed. Francois is depressed and alienated, and cares for no-one. He is utterly neutral, taking no ethical stand whatsoever, guided only by his own self-interest, but his only interests are eating, drinking, smoking, sex and Huysmans. His colleagues are no better. French culture disappears as every man looks after himself.

Submission is a hugely entertaining and thought-provoking book. Read it.
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LibraryThing member Opinionated
Houellebecq imagines a future where the charming, intelligent and charismatic leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Ben Abbas, is able to gain the Presidency through a deal with UPM and the Socialists to keep the National Front out of power. In Houellebecq's 2022, mainstream political parties
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don't stand for anything or appeal to anyone. It is only the National Front and the Muslim Brotherhood .. which do at least stand for something... that can attract any support.

The entirely reasonable Brotherhood only make one real demand - to reform the education system. All teachers must convert to Islam, and teaching to be undertaken under Islamic auspices. For Francois, Houllebecq's empty, purposeless and soulless academic narrator, this means the end of his teaching career, something that causes him no great upset, other than to cut off the supply of second year students as potential girlfriends / mistresses. Francois has spent most of his adult in contemplation of Huysmans, a minor 19th century writer. He is an expert on Huysmans, but on little else.

Francois is a perfect example of lonely, atomised, individualist, decadent Western culture. He is the symptom of what Houellebecq sees as the decline of Western civilisation. He has few relationships - his mother and father die without him seeming to notice, literally in the case of his mother. His dealings with women consist of either preying on star struck students, or making appointments with escorts, but he is jaded even with this

By contrasts, his colleagues who convert to Islam to retain their jobs, are rewarded with large pay increases, and the dubious charms of polygamy. For someone like Francois who, like his beloved Huysmans, is really only interested in women as whores or cooks, this all looks quite appealing and slowly he is drawn towards submission

You can't deny that the book is well written, at times pretty funny, and that some of the scenarios that he puts forward don't require too much suspension of disbelief. They are possible, if not probable or likely. And yet there is something ultimately unsatisfying about it. The idea that consumer culture and individualism have reached the end of their cultural cycle, and that people are being increasingly pulled to some form of belief, has some currency. But it seems to me that Houellebecq seemed to be suggesting that men will ultimately be happy with any system or form of belief, that facilitates their continuing domination of women. Indeed Francois himself suggests, early in the book, that historically weakening the primacy of the male has been a bad idea - an idea that has his girlfriend Myriam, stomping out of the house - and later, the Muslim convert who runs the University expresses the idea that you can't really change men, but you can teach women to believe in anything as they are more intellectually "supple"

Overall an interesting book, that I read in one session, with some provocative ideas, that I mostly disagree with and indeed find barren and disagreeable. But interesting
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LibraryThing member agingcow2345
First off while it bills itself as a novel of the near future, it is in fact a polemic. There is no character development and little plot. The thoroughly repulsive POV character is a representative of a secular elite whose cultural and demographic exhaustion leads to a soft surrender to Islam to
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avoid the nativists/fascists/Catholics [LePen and the National Front] winning. The suicide of the West set of memes goes back to pre-WW1, as indeed is noted in the book. The hatred for native nationalism is left unexplained but is obvious to anyone who understands the meanings of Vichy and Algeria in the French secular left’s mythologies. Should be read in company with Camp of the Saints. Yet with all of this, it was well written and intelligent as opposed to just provocative.
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LibraryThing member byebyelibrary
Having heard only the hype about Houellebecq I wasn't prepared to find Submission to be such a funny and erudite book. I am not sure how you can call this book a polemic. Which side is Houellebecq on? None that I can see. The demographic powered Muslim takeover of France and Europe the book posits
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is more thought-provoking and ironic than sinister and frightening. Mohammed Ben Abbes, the fictional muslim president, is interest less in Sharia law than in reviving the Roman Empire. France gets to keep its booze and escorts but loses its free education and welfare state, which ruffles the least amount of feathers. Houellebecq is a brilliant intellectual clown, utterly fearless and with impeccable timing. Funny that contemporary France should produce literature's greatest living autodidact. Maybe there is hope for us all yet.
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LibraryThing member iansales
I can’t decide if this novel is irresponsible race-baiting or a clever commentary on the culture war. It’s probably both. In Submission‘s 2022, a moderate Muslim candidate becomes president of France and remakes French society along moderate Islamic lines – which are not all that moderate.
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In a word, the patriarchy is back. Women can no longer work. The narrator is a professor at a Parisian university, who is forced to retire when the new regime takes over. While the new government greatly reduces crime, it is at the cost of women’s freedoms. Professors are “bribed” back into their positions by finding them biddable female students as wives. Which, to be fair, is not how Islam works. It is, however, how patriarchy works. And that’s definitely one of the unacknowledged planks of the right-wing adherents of the “culture war”. They hate Muslims. But they want women back in the kitchen and no brown people in sight. But I’m not sure this novel is commenting on them, and I don’t think Islam is a good vehicle to make that point. But then France has a different reaction to its Muslim citizens than the UK, and I grew up in the Middle East so I’ve lived in actual Islamic countries, and Houellebecq’s presentation of Islam is hopelessly simplified, even though he provides a character to actually explain the religion. There’s also an unacknowledged issue here. I’ve seen it in the real world. In Houellebecq’s France, women can still study, but they cannot work. So their studies are worthless. But those women don’t want their daughters to suffer the same fate, so they agitate for jobs. It’s what’s been happing in the Gulf states for the past 30 years. Houllebecq’s interpretation of an Islamic Europe is unsustainable. You can’t disenfranchise half of the population and expect that to continue unopposed. Houellebecq is a controversial figure, but much of the controversy he has manufactured himself. Submission is the sort of novel that will upset people, but it’s not really a thought experiment. it’s a piss-take. Houellebecq is upsetting the people he’s taking the piss out of. Seems fair to me.
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LibraryThing member Steve38
A typically Houellebecq typically interesting and typically frustrating read. A man with a view, with learning and with ideas and not afraid to flaunt them all. A superficially frivolous view of a near future France becoming the centre of a European caliphate. But there's enough there for you to
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think 'Maybe'. And typically Houellebecqian obsessions with sex, food, drink and street addresses.
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LibraryThing member stillatim
Houellebecq does a good job here of avoiding all the things that make for good novels, like characters, language, plot, structure, verisimilitude etc..., and yet still writing something entertaining and, above all, interesting. In other words: this is good satire and a bad novel. One out of two is
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enough, but the astonishing badness of much of the book means I can't, in good conscience, rate it too highly. The conceit, however, is wonderful, and Houellebecq develops it flawlessly. The most interesting thing about it as a work of art is Houellebecq's ability to write a book that looks like it's an attack on all the things that conservatives are supposed to despise (mainly Islam, but also secularization and feminism and a few others), but really an attack on the hypocrisy of conservative and liberal men. I hesitate to say more, because the book is only enjoyable if you don't know what's going to happen.
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LibraryThing member SESchend
Irritating & meandering beginning quickly lost my interest in this one. Unfinished as not one for me.
LibraryThing member judithrs
Submission. Michel Houellebecq. 2015. This book caught my attention because the main character, Francois is a literature teacher at the Sorbonne specializing in the author J. K. Huysmans, a realist who’s most famous and infamous work, A Rebours marks the beginning of gay literature. (I found
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Huysmans book on his conversion, En Route, on a Catholic site, it is a fascinating book.) Francois is tired of life; he teaches his classes, manages to have an affair with a student each year, eats frozen dinners or Chinese take-out. He doesn’t seem to care or be interested in anyone or anything. He is aware that it is election time in France and surprised when the Socialists join with the Moslem party and win. The Moslems are now in control and Sharia Law is enforced. Francois and all the other non Moslems lose their university positions as do other government employees. Women wear veils and men are encourage to have more than one wife. Myriam, one of Francois’ former student/girlfriends tells him she is going to Israel because her parents feel France is no longer safe for Jews. Francois is contacted by one of the Sorbonne’s new Moslem officials and is offered a heathy promotion and told his book could be republished by the prestigious Editions de Pleiade if he will convert to Islam.
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LibraryThing member hadden
The book is a best seller in Europe, and I heard enough to be interested. However, it wasn't what I thought it would be, and was disappointing. The main character is an university scholar, who is stand-offish and critical, un-involved in life, and more than a bit of a bore. As the Muslims take
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power in France, the schools become pro-Muslim, and women can't attend past high school, must wear veils, etc. Very little of this is explored, as the main character's use of prostitutes satisfies his baser needs, and the Jewish woman he had contact leaves France to escape the Muslim rule. Eventually he is dismissed from the University and given a very generous pension, in part because he isn't Muslim. His parents die, and he is largely unmoved. Eventually he is offered a position, but he must convert to Islam to accept it. That is his submission. Again, he is un-involved and passionless in his thoughts and actions. And happy that as a Muslim he will eventually have a child-bride to marry, a prominent position, and sufficient money. By the end of the book, I was uninterested in the characters, and un-involved with the plodding plot. Unlike some of the other reviewers who enjoyed the book, I thought the emphasis on Joris-Karl Huysmans (a 19th century French author) tiresome and pretentious. Not worth the cost of the book.
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LibraryThing member icolford
In Submission, Michel Houellebecq imagines a France of the near future where a weakening of familiar political allegiances opens the door for an Islamic party, the Muslin Brotherhood, to seize power. It is 2022, election season, and unrest throughout Europe is making people nervous about the
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future. France in particular, after years of political bickering and scandal, is ripe for change. Francois, a middle-age expert on Huysmans, teaches at the Sorbonne. Emotionally and materially selfish, a disillusioned loner intellectual, concerned mainly with his own erotic appetites, Francois observes the changes taking place around him at a sardonic remove, unable and unwilling to commit to anything, interested only insofar as the changes affect him, but unconvinced that anything of meaning will actually take place (this is France after all). However, as the Muslim Brotherhood gains traction and is taken seriously as a viable alternative to the traditional parties that have failed again and again, and as their ascent begins to seem not just reasonable but inevitable, even desirable, things happen that compel him to sit up and take notice. The most momentous of these events occurs when his girlfriend Myriam (actually a former student with whom he still sleeps occasionally), follows her family and moves to Israel (Myriam is Jewish). With the loss of the only emotional link to another human being that means anything to him (this is significant because their relationship is driven almost exclusively by sex), Francois begins to drift, even more than usual. Then the Brotherhood assumes power. Almost overnight French society undergoes a revolutionary shift, and Francois finds a life-changing decision thrust upon him by circumstances that, in Houellebecq’s rendition, seem entirely plausible. Submission is a subtle political satire narrated by a self-involved protagonist whom the reader never really grows to like, but who is none the less totally fascinating. Michel Houellebecq has written an absorbing and provocative novel that may leave us untouched emotionally, but which gives us plenty to think about.
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LibraryThing member SigmundFraud
Submission: A Novel by Michel Houellebecq was published in France to much controversy. It ironically was the day that the radical jihadists murdered the writers at Charlie Hebdo. I say ironically because this novel is the story of France gradually and finally becoming Muslim. The French were
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shocked but I didn't find it shocking if somewhat plausible. As you had to become a Nazi in Germany if you were to get anywhere you had to become a Muslim in order to succeed in France. The antagonist by the end becomes a Muslim because he wants his job back at the Sorbonne which has become Islamic. The book was un sucess fou in France but I am not convinced it is warranted.
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LibraryThing member cstebbins
Although I understand this is supposed to be satire, I fear there may be quite a few Frenchmen who think secretly that it sounds pretty good. Rather chilling.
LibraryThing member jonfaith
Above our heads the linden branches stirred in the breeze. Just then, in the distance, I heard a soft, muffled noise like an explosion.

This wasn't the dystopia I had expected. Scandalous -- such was the domestic response to this alleged fragmentation grenade. Set a few years in the future, the
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Muslim Brotherhood in France forms a coalition and becomes ruling party -- but what exactly follows? Changes, for sure, but ones that often elude the eye. That is, however, from a man's perspective. Women appear eased into the margins, out of sight and somewhat blurred. The internet and supermarkets still maintain us, meet our needs and desires with a formal clumsiness: just like Amazon. Weather patterns feature in the novel. Maybe our trends in civilization and ontology are just as capricious. This novel is more about the life-cycle of ideas rather than Sharia or the more extreme notions: stonings, genital mutilation etc. There are always times when I read Houellebecq that I think-- wait, am I like that? H succeeds in prodding us to consider our self-deceptions and I'm truly thankful for that. This may disappoint some, but I found it to be remarkable. 4.8 stars
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LibraryThing member ozzer
Houellebecq’s SUBMISSION takes a satirical look at Europe (and the West) in the near future. We are bored; capitalism and globalism are failing; liberalism does not seem to have suitable answers; greed and materialism are rampant; and our heroes are mindless celebrities and sports stars. Society
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is exhausted and new societal structures seem to be in order. We are in need of a rebirth of meaning in some form of idealism. His narrator, Francois, is a French academic, who is intensely pessimistic, fundamentally isolated and apathetic, with the sole exception of his scholarly interest in the obscure 19th Century French writer— Huysman. The plot revolves around political upheaval in France that cedes power to the Muslims. Francois is faced with the pragmatic decision of converting to Islam in order to keep his faculty appointment. Curiously, Islam in this novel seems benign; lacking in the extremes the West has come to associate with jihad. Houellebecq’s choice of Huysman is inspired because he represents a man, who evolved from nihilism and decadence to embracing Catholicism. Following the political turmoil, Francois sets out on a similar journey but quickly discovers that Catholicism will not provide the solace he requires; moreover, he concludes that Huysman’s acceptance of Catholicism may in fact have been deluded.
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LibraryThing member jtck121166
Is one allowed to appreciate Houellebecq? I do, and not only for the shades of Huysmans in this one. This is not only scary - it's credible.
LibraryThing member arubabookwoman
Francois is a professor and scholar at the Sorbonne, an expert on J.K. Huysmans. A womanizing bachelor, he is suffering a vague middle age malaise. There is an election going on in France, and Marine LePen's Party and the Islamist Party end up in the runoffs. In the final election, the Islamist
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Party wins, leading to major changes in French society. Overnight females can no longer teach at the Sorbonne. In fact, males cannot teach at the Sorbonne unless they convert to Islam. In addition, male faculty are encouraged to take multiple wives. Most Jews, including Francois's then girlfriend, leave the country. Francois can't decide what to do, and for the most part doesn't really seem to care.

I've read one other book by Houllebecq, I can't remember which, and I didn't like it at all. I intended never to read another book by him. Then this one came out, and the premise was interesting. This was easy to read, although it is not a novel of plot or character development. I didn't find it compelling. I'm afraid Houellebecq identifies too much with characters like Francois.

2 1/2 stars
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LibraryThing member antao
I couldn't read it in the original (I don’t speak French), so that qualifies my impression somewhat, but the English version I read was a poorly-written vehicle for (sophomoric) ideas... a second-rate Kundera with none of Kundera's learning or wit or talent for structural elegance. I cautiously
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read a second novel of his and then half of a third novel and my opinion of the author was not changed. I have nothing against a dour worldview... anything ranging from Palahniuk to Céline (to whom Houellebecq once bore a passing physical resemblance) to Littel to the gently-black Vonnegut can work... but Houellebecq? Bah. But Houellebecq is all set, obviously, to profit enormously from the Stupidities of this Age. Smart of him surely? Unfortunately he is not that skillful taking the piss out of people and society which is against Muslims and women. A mirror of society, showing them what they do not want to see. And now everyone "hates" the mirror. How silly. And how smart of him.

Bottom-line: Too bad Houellebecq seems to be more concerned about his decrepit cock and women's tits and pussies than everything else (namely good writing). Most people take him seriously, and read him in the first degree. But he is not only twisted, he is also highly perverse. He simply recognises and writes to prejudices that people will not speak out themselves. People who are considered intellectuals are afraid of not liking his work, 'ordinary' people do not buy his books. The novel's conceit is frankly implausible, and the leading character unusually cardboardy, even for Houellebecq. Plus, he seems to have lost his sense of humour. Frankly, I fear he's lost it, and it'd be surprising if he wasn't at his age, considering the amount of fags and booze he's reportedly got through. Houellebecq is beginning to share the fate of his distant cousin, Danny Houellebecq: that of being overrated by French philosophers desperate to revive a once proud intellectual tradition. It reminds me of the adulation accorded Jean Paul Sartre - who evidently lived on amphetamine for over 25 years and also did not feel responsible to anyone but his own "truth" a truth which changed at least 5 times during his career - one wonders why in France an author can get into such a position of intellectual power - what is going on with other people's critical facilities? Maybe because the working class are ruled by the baton, the middle class are ruled by culture, and the ruling class are ruled by the fear of being either of them. I think this is intellectual power as compensation for lack of self-responsibility. This man is a jumble of compulsions clumped together by others as "chic" and "challenging." In a nutshell, I don't know what he's frigging around with, neither here or there. But I guess I don't blame him, he's a bit worried. We are witnessing the death of art. Even the irreverent South Park has been silenced. It doesn't bode well either way. When so much of the arts, indeed so much of public life, is dominated by cowardly mediocrities, all congratulating each other for challenging the injustices and social conventions of the world as it was circa 1950, it is refreshing indeed to have a genuinely nutty writer such as Mr Houellebecq. I just wish Houellebecq would be able to write anything worthwhile! Saying he's got balls is not enough. On the other hand, I believe Houellebecq's true inspiration for this novel (my interpretation) is being overlooked in many reviews: he is staging the nightmare peddled by European far right movements. He does it openly, referencing people like Renaud Camus and Bat Ye'Or. The novel is about their nightmare becoming reality, like the "Turner Diaries" were about the far right US fantasy becoming real - and I think that some reviewers are illustrating that he aimed in the right direction. He does mercilessly attack the French elite, with one glaring exception: Marine Le Pen. He actually even says that she is "beautiful", which is indeed a sign of great admiration, for a man who goes out of his way to say as often as possible, in books and interviews, that any woman beyond the age of 22 is decrepit and sexually repulsive... Wot?
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LibraryThing member jtck121166
Is one allowed to appreciate Houellebecq? I do, and not only for the shades of Huysmans in this one. This is not only scary - it's credible.
LibraryThing member berezovskyi
Surprisingly, less vulgar and much more thoughtful than I expected after reading a few chapters.
LibraryThing member PuddinTame
This is the dullest book that I have ever forced myself to finish. I was unable to force myself to finish the last three pages of its chief competitor. It has a very interesting and timely theme - what if the Islamic citizens of Europe were elected as the government. It takes until at least the
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last half of the book before it goes anywhere. I realize that I am recounting the plot, but I don't think that it contains any surprises for anyone who read the book jacket.

It definitely would help if I were French, since I'm sure that I am missing a lot. It might also help if I was European and/or raised Catholic. The characters speak with great respect of the wonders of the Medieval World, but it leaves me rather cold. It is difficult to reflect on the wonders of everyone being united in faith, when one overlooks the penalties for failing to participate in church, and the burning of heretics Some of my relatives spent a lot of time mourning "the good old days," and I took the dog for a lot of long walks when they got going. That is one of my problems with modern arts - I am not sufficiently angst-ridden, anxious, and alienated. Perhaps a better way to put that is to say that I am not delusional about the past. A woman was delivering a tedious lecture at a social gathering about how awful modern youth are, as compared to ourselves when we were their age. She works at a college and knows more about people that age than I do. Perhaps they are as awful as she says - but we were not as wonderful as she likes to think.

The first, and more boring part, is about François, a respected literature professor at the Sorbonne whose specialty is J. K. Huysman. He is boring, fussy, misogynistic, disinterested in public affairs, and obsessed with his unhappy sex life. His affairs never last more than an academic year. It's amazing to me that they have ever lasted as long as a month. (The sex gets quite graphic at times - it doesn't improve François or the book.) He is also very negative - he will have a good experience and them himself that it can never happen again. Neither he nor book are improved by details of his take-out dinners, and broken microwave, or his idiosyncratic declarations on things that he probably doesn't know a great deal about. Of course, I could imagine the self-centered François droning on about the trivia in his life as his listeners desperately attempt to change the subject or think of an excuse to leave.

There is a scene that is very poignant for François, but not this reader, in which he reflects sadly on all the people in Paris who live alone. Of course, he was just telling us a little while before that he could never live with someone in a one-bedroom apartment because it would kill all sexual desire. I would think that he and whoever he could get to move in, could rent two bedrooms on their combined salaries, but that would be risky for François, as I think that his lover would at some point run screaming for the door, leaving him with the rent.

In the hypothetical 2022 election, the National Front is expected to win, and gets a plurality, but is defeated when the Socialists combine with the Islamic party led by its charismatic leader, Ben Abbas. Ben Abbas has been calling for education that teaches values and plans a four-part educational system. The three Abrahamic religions will each get a system of parochial schools. Anyone else will be taught in poorly funded public schools, which will end when the pupils are twelve, at which time they will be encouraged to go to trade schools. Saudi Arabia is ready to pour huge sums of money into the Islamic schools.

François's university closes almost immediately until the next academic year, although salaries continue to be paid. François travels around France and comes back to find that the university will become Islamic, with only Muslim teachers, and his is offered a very generous pension to retire quietly, which he takes. He meets with a former member of the National Front, Rediger, who has converted to Islam, and is very impressed that he has two wives, a fifteen-year-old for sex, and a forty-year-old to cook. (Of course, a good Muslim man treats all of his wives equally, including sexually, so François may have a problem with that.) He will also be rehired at the university at triple his previous salary.

Polygyny, of course, means that some men can never marry, but Rediger thinks that such losers, presumably those people in the trades, shouldn't be breeding anyway. Since Ben Abbas is cutting back on social benefits in favor of relying on the warmth of the family, this could become difficult.

The book ends with François's touching meditations on his happy conversion, which gives him a second chance at life. However, since he is still François, I don't imagine that will last. I have known people, one of whom was aptly described as being like a dripping faucet, who always manage to find something to be miserable about, and whether its famine in the Sahel or new zoning laws in a city they don't even live in, everything is equally tragic.

I wonder how they are going to find enough Muslim girls for all the new converts - import them? What is François going to do when his fifteen-year-old ages out at, say, twenty-five. Is she going to study cooking intensively while he acquires a new child-bride? Rediger estimates that he can afford three wives, so since François is about forty-years-old and has previously announced that people over sixty have no interest in sex (they'd surprise him), maybe two teenage brides will suffice. If not, perhaps his older wives can have a cooking contest to sue who gets divorced.

I wonder what Houellebecq makes of his character. Of course, perhaps he is only setting up a thought experiment and the character isn't important.
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LibraryThing member SESchend
Irritating & meandering beginning quickly lost my interest in this one. Unfinished as not one for me.


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Physical description

270 p.; 21 cm


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