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Houellebecq Revealed

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Michel Houellebecq, author of Les Particules élémentaires, was for some time the darling of the French press. This week Le Monde is publishing a six-part exposé on the excesses and growing oddness of the best-selling French author. An anonymous writer friend of Houellebecq's, "whom he admires," was interviewed by journalist Ariane Chemin for the piece, which has caused quite a media tempest in France. Le Point has published a summary of the juiciest bits ("Houellebecq est devenu un tyran", August 18), where among other things the anonymous source is quoted saying that Houellebecq is "surrounded by a Chinese emperor's court: he poses as a victim, as a person suffering pain whom literature has allowed to rise above his destiny" (my translation):
The first article described the writer's unusual life, in his apartment situated high up an apartment building in Paris's 13th arrondissement, which "looks out toward the Paris beltway more than toward the city." She also evokes his last book, the controversial Soumission, published the same day as the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, and which has now earned the author a police bodyguard. Soumission takes place in 2022, in a France governed by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic party in France. The book, which caused a media storm even before it was published, quickly rose to the top of the best seller lists in France, as well as in several countries in Europe.
Houellebecq has refused to respond to Le Monde, agreeing instead to be interviewed by Le Figaro. The folks at The Paris Review have recently published a section of Houellebecq's Soumission in English. The book will appear in the U.S. in October, so it looks like I will be reading it after the new Elena Ferrante novel.

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