Dans une France assez proche de la nôtre, un homme s’engage dans la carrière universitaire. Peu motivé par l’enseignement, il s’attend à une vie ennuyeuse mais calme, protégée des grands drames historiques. Cependant les forces en jeu dans le pays ont fissuré le système politique jusqu’à provoquer son effondrement. Cette implosion sans soubresauts, sans vraie révolution, se développe comme un mauvais rêve.
Le talent de l’auteur, sa force visionnaire nous entraînent sur un terrain ambigu et glissant ; son regard sur notre civilisation vieillissante fait coexister dans ce roman les intuitions poétiques, les effets comiques, une mélancolie fataliste.
Ce livre est une saisissante fable politique et morale.
Michel Houellebecq (born Michel Thomas), born 26 February 1958 (birth certificate) or 1956 on the French island of Réunion, is a controversial and award-winning French novelist. To admirers he is a writer in the tradition of literary provocation that reaches back to the Marquis de Sade and Baudelaire; to detractors he is a peddler, who writes vulgar sleazy literature to shock. His works though, particularly Atomised, have received high praise from the French literary intelligentsia, with generally positive international critical response, Having written poetry and a biography of the horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, he brought out his first novel Extension du domaine de la lutte in 1994. Les particules élémentaires followed in 1998 and Plateforme, in 2001. After a disastrous publicity tour for this book, which led to his being taken to court for inciting racial hatred, he went to Ireland to write. He currently resides in France, where he has been described as "France’s biggest literary export and, some say, greatest living writer". In 2010 he published La Carte et le Territoire (published the same year in English as The Map and the Territory) which won the prestigious Prix Goncourt; and, in 2015, Submission.
This week, on Dystopia! Michel Houellebecq discusses the future with Robert Heinlein
- Good evening, M. Houellebecq.
- Bonsoir, M. Heinlein. Alors, please, tell me your vision of the future.
- Sure. So Western civilization, it's already--
- --in a process of, ah, désintegration?
- You got it, buddy. As my old friend Cyril Kornbluth used to say, they breed faster than we do.
- Muslims, monsieur?
- People with low IQs. Same difference.
- Excusez-moi, monsieur, my novel is respectful towards the Muslim world.
- But you do say they breed faster than us?
- I do--
- You ain't foolin' anyone, Michel. I rest my case.
- We must, ah, agree to disagree. Alors, la désintegration de la civilisation occidentale. There will be increasing relaxation of the mœurs sexuels. Women will comport themselves like prostitutes, openly flaunting their faces, their legs, their breasts-
- I think it's important to describe this process explicitly.
- Absoluement, très important. The reader must be shown how these femmes décadentes behave.
- At length.
- This time, I see we agree, M. Heinlein! And then, there will be violence.
- Limited nuclear war.
- Disruption of the élection présidentielle française.
- Details, details, Michel. We can sort that out later. But the important thing is, the West is finished.
- Oui, fini.
- They will take over. It's inevitable.
- C'est inévitable.
- But there will be a few strong, survivor types. Rugged, well-prepared libertarians.
- Oui, professors of nineteenth century literature.
- They will still be there. They will take younger women.
- Jeunes étudiantes.
- Their daughters-in-law.
- Again, M. Heinlein, des détails. We agree that there is only one thing to do?
Wow. Great satire ... of French ... of European ... of Western values ... or lack thereof. So well done that the irony often slips by unnoticed. Who the hell are we?
So what do you call a novel about Muslims taking over control of France? A novel of generally cynical politics? A novel where women appear mostly in sexually explicit scenes and have little to say except in defining themselves in relation to men (some exceptions)? A novel where 15 year old girls become acceptable as second (or third) child wives? A novel in which the much touted French intellectual, defender of superior French culture appears to be willing to sell out in favour of the above? In this case, it is called “Soumission” – In the Islamic religion one submits to Allah. In Soumission, one submits to what one believes is necessary for a happy life – perhaps the same thing, but most likely cynical to a point. In any event, the Christian belief in Christ, belief in European values are found wanting, no longer relevant. So submission it is. - GR readers seem to be greatly divided on this novel. Not only are there sharp divisions on ratings, but even those who agree on ratings often seem to have read different books.
Who should read this: Those who have a strong sense of irony, a willingness to be uncomfortable with themselves and a well-developed understanding of satire, for this is satire at its best, subtle but in your face at the same time. A certain knowledge of French culture and current French politics would also help but can be quickly acquired as needed on line. The English translation is scheduled to be out in October, 2015. - Michel Houellebecq has written a book about a disaffected, lonely, somewhat cynical French university professor at Sorbonne III, François. François has, many years back, written his doctoral thesis on the writings and life of Joris-Karl Huysmans, a fact that is important to the novel. Alcohol seems to play an exaggerated role in his life. The reader is subjected to his innermost thoughts on his life, his work, French politics and his sexual activities, both alone and with others. The story unfolds in the first person as the world evolves before Francois eyes. - So, it’s 2022 and France and the world have continued to unfold on the current track. Nothing much has changed as France enters its scheduled elections. And the Earth moves … and nothing happens. The gist of the story, which you can read in detail elsewhere (preferably in the book), is that France inadvertently elects a Muslim led government. (Plausible under Houellebecq’s view of his compatriots.) The newly elected Muslim Brotherhood party, in coalition with the Socialists, moves slowly and intelligently under Prime Minister Mohammed Ben Abbes, a likeable and competent man, to transform France, Europe and the entire Mediterranean region into a moderate Islamic culture. He is somewhat of a Constantine transforming Rome. - This change leaves François at somewhat of a loss – in particular, he has lost his teaching position, non-Muslims are not allowed to teach in publicly funded institutions, and he has lost his young Jewish girlfriend, who has moved with her family to Israel and “met someone else.” He wanders in this new culture, at a loss – but he was somewhat at a loss before the changes. Houellebecq makes it clear throughout the book that French, European culture is already bankrupt. Can we see the Muslim takeover as a new opportunity for a better future? I do not believe that Houellebecq wants to say that. Nor is he in disdain of the Muslim takeover. His disdain is for his fellow French citizens who have lost all values. - All is not lost for François however. The new administration comes calling. They need him. They need an expert in Huysmans on the faculty. Indeed, the new administration wants to support traditional French culture for all of its respectability. They have no intention of interfering with the tradition of La Belle France. It is François who hesitates. First, in trying to situate himself in the new France, he has gone searching for his old passion, Huysmans. He has tried to follow Huysmans into the world he withdrew into a hundred years earlier when he too found himself adrift in a changing France … and quickly flees back to France, questioning Huysmans commitment and sure of his own ability to suffer Christian commitment. He needs stimulation, not adulation. Mostly, he needs to satisfy his own sexual obsessions, normal male sexual obsessions. He has returned to Paris to try to fulfill his needs and to basically give up when the offer comes to return to the Sorbonne. - But as with all good deals, there is a condition. Of course François must become a Muslim and he cannot imagine doing so. His recent experience with his Christian beliefs has left him drained of the possibility of believing in any religion. And this is where Houellebecq is at his best. He introduces us to Robert Rediger, a man recently promoted to be in charge of the Sorbonne but moving quickly up the ladder into the leadership of the new Muslim government. He is charming, intelligent, extremely well read and Muslim. He converted to Islam as a young man and comes across as sincere. At the same time, Rediger is enjoying all of the benefits of his situation – a grand old mansion, an overflowing library, the best of wines and a new 15 year old wife to supplement his first, middle-aged, wife who quietly moves around in the background serving his every need. - Rediger explains his own conversion many years before, feeling unsatisfied with the values of the world in which he lived (Belgium). « Cette Europe qui était le sommet de la civilisation de la monde s ‘est bel et bien suicidée, en l’espace de quelques décennies ». European culture was collapsing and his favourite bar in Brussels in the Hotel Metropole, noted for its Art Nouveau style was closing. In contrast, he saw Islam as providing stability of tradition, unchanging in its values in its submission to Allah. As the Metropole closed, he became a Muslim, a sincere Muslim. He tells his story to François and then sets out to lay out why Islam has become the core of his life: the concept of submission – of woman to man (as in the novel “The Story of O”). François has been given a lot to think about. Rediger has also given him a small book he has written on Islam – it has sold millions. He reads the book and on their next encounter poses some questions. - Questions on bigamy. His main concern, as a professor, is that he does not consider himself to be a dominant male. Rediger clarifies that, no, university professors are by nature dominant males. But then there is the real problem of … how does a man chose the right woman? Here too Islam has developed the perfect solution: les marieuses – women whose role it is to approach young women’s families on behalf of men. Simply put, the process of finding a spouse, or spouses, is without stress. Islam has taken care of that. Worry-free courting. - Houellebecq has been accused of being anti-Islamic, but I think not. Yes it is Islam that takes over France, but it is not portrayed as evil or oppressive. It simply is. Definitely, Houellebecq portrays it as something much more benign than the Christian takeover of the Roman empire some 1 600 years ago. Pagans would have gladly suffered such a fate as French citizens face here – losing your job with a full pension? - No, not the Muslims, nor women are Houellebecq’s target. It is his fellow French intellectual, the complacent unthinking, European who has abandoned all semblance of cultural tradition; who cannot relate to his/her own roots; who cannot form real human relationships that he attacks. Islam isn’t a bad thing. It is portrayed as being a more energetic, more committed other which replaces the sloth of Europe. A satirical warning that if values matter, the need to be upheld. If not, then accept what comes. - One thing should be noted by those of us in the Americas. We a barely thought of here. I would guess that Houellebecq considers that we already have nothing to lose. We are already, long have been, little more than barbarians. This is a novel about values and I suspect Houellebecq is in complete distain of what we have and have never had. His concern is for what France has lost and continues to lose.
I have never been a big Houellebecq fan finding his obsession with his own intellect and genitalia annoying, so when a friend assured me that this book, Submission from 2015, was his masterpiece and was not just a paen to his intellect, I gave it a shot. Well, aside from the novel premise of an islamic conversion of France in the 2017 election and a few comical observations here and there, the book is still primarily about his own intellect and his genitalia. I was bored from about page 5 and that ennui never really left me up to the end. Yes, there are some interesting observations and he does know an awful lot about Huysmans, but his characters are flat and two-dimensional, his female characters are either ugly (read unfuckable) or sexy (and it follows fondly fucked by the protagonist) or inaccessible (because they belong to another more powerful male). Despite the novelty of the central theme of Islam vs modernity, Houellebecq's own view of women is utilitarian and reductive. In sum, my low opinion of Houellebecq remains low and I will be far less inclined to give him another shot to change that opinion in the future.
In the book “Submission” Houellebecq describes in a calm, almost casual style, the fictional stories of a Paris university professor of literature, who describes his everyday life and thereby taps the social upheaval, after a Muslim party has won the elections. Houellebecq tells about social developments in France, how it leads to the election success of the Muslim party and what the consequences are. The whole book is written in excellent language with a lot of bad irony and subtle humor. For this literature the reader has to have some advanced geographical, cultural and literary knowledge of France to understand all his allusions. The novel is not suitable to seduce the reader for a few contemplative hours from the everyday life, because he literally hits the reality in the readers mind. Moreover you learn a lot about Joris-Karl Huysmans and about French literature, and generally about topics of the French intellectuals. He calls for reflection and involvement, in society, religion and politics and to become aware of the meaning of human existence. It is brilliant and humorous written and therefore it is absolutely recommended.
It seems as though Houellebecq wrote the novel to stir up not debate but controversy. I'm afraid to say that charging a small segment of French population with so much power and influence is way too out of proportion. French Muslims have no power (as a bloc), have no media representation (they own nothing), have no think tanks or lobbies to influence decision-making in France or elsewhere in Europe.
Sure, they are the largest religious minority, but the numbers are small in the total population. The total percentage has not crossed into double digits anywhere in Europe, though if you were to listen to the right wing media, you'd probably think that about 30% to 40% of French, British, German, Dutch, Austrian etc populations now consist of Muslims and, lo and behold, it will hardly be another decade before the dark forces of the Crescent become a majority and, theoretically, come to power.
This whole debate, this loud and endless lament, says more about the state of Western society than it addresses problems among minority faith communities or immigration. Can the West hold on to its post-WWII romance of liberalism / equality / secularism / multiculturalism? (LESM) This is the question Houellebecq is attempting to answer but he's chosen to unload the failures of Europe (in this case France) on the shoulders of a powerless community whose most effective means of showing power is to blow up buildings or truck down people walking down the street, leaving the rest of their people to give out embarrassed defenses.
Just imagine the despair.
Global Jihadist violence and recent high profile incidents of terrorism in Europe are causing palpitations that an extremist takeover, somehow or the other, is imminent. But no, what's happening in Iraq and Syria (in part the responsibility of the same Western regimes who make the most noise about Islamist terrorism) is not going to happen in France or anywhere in the West. So please sleep well. As for Houellebecq, a democratic coming to power of conservative Muslims who then go on to turn France into a theo-democracy is not only far-fetched but simply ludicrous.
So is this satire? A literary experiment to see what sort of France would there be if a conservative Muslim party came to power and changed the rules? If so, I'm not very amused. To think-up a scenario where a small minority of European Muslims would come into power through the backdoor and force everyone - the liberals, the atheists, the other - into "submission" is as questionable as, say, a writer engaging in a fantasy of the Jewish conspiracy to take over the entire world.
I set out to read this book expecting to be provoked because in my experience Houellebecq is always hell-bent on provoking somebody, and very often the 'somebody' is of the opposite sex. I wasn’t disappointed this time; his narrator managed to provoke me right at the beginning, and regularly from then on, so I decided that the only way to review this book was with a full set of teeth on show!
But relax, my teeth are not ‘bared’, just revealed in a wide smile because the only way to take the twenty-first century part of this book is with a giant dose of humour. And there are some deliberately funny lines (at least I hoped they were deliberate). In fact, I enjoyed the book much more than I thought I would and it also lead me to read a book by a nineteenth century author, J-K Huysmans, a book I’ve owned for a while but hadn’t yet got around to reading. I actually paused the Houellebecq book half-way through in order to read À rebours from beginning to end, and I began to better appreciate the parallels between the protagonists' lives and experiences, although it isn’t at all essential for readers to read the Huysmans book since Houellebecq threads plenty of material about Huysmans' life and times into his twenty-first century story. To a certain extent, I felt Houelllebecq's narrator's engagement with Huysmans and other writers of the late-nineteenth century might have suited me better in a book with less of a political theme but I can see why he combined the Huysmans part with his contemporary tale as there are some apt comparisons between the two. In any case, taking a break from the modern-day story to visit the nineteenth century suited me very well and I was grateful to Houellebecq for the nudge to finally open À rebours (edit: according to the notes at the back of À rebours in which Huysmans speaks of a character called Jean Folantin from one of his earlier books, A Vau-l'Eau, I see that Folantin, more than the protagonist in À rebours, is the character who more closely resembles Houellebecq's narrator. They are both slightly hypochondriac single men, despondent at work, obliged to eat poor food alone, and who decide eventually to 'go with the flow' (à vau-l'eau) when a new way of life presents itself).
When his narrator is not contemplating the nineteenth century, Houellebecq allows him to zone in on various aspects of modern French life: the political system, the university system, and especially the politics within the university system. I enjoyed all that satire very much. However, I generally prefer satire to be delivered with a little more nuance than I found here. Houellebecq dropped so many over-obvious hints about the eventual outcome of his 2022 scenario that even though he held off from describing that outcome until the very last pages (underlining the huge importance he gave to the story elements), we knew almost from the beginning exactly how it would end. So not only a laboured plot but the labouring done at the expense of the satire, I felt.
There were also some very long turns by characters who appeared in the narrative just to make certain ideological points: the secret service agent, Alain Tanneur, for example, who is introduced twice just to make the case for one side of the book's principal argument; and the president of the Sorbonne university, Robert Rediger, who is twice brought on just to debate the other side of the argument - though I enjoyed the choice of name in Rediger’s case: the verb ‘rediger’ means ‘to write’ or ‘to write out formally’ and it is Rediger who gets to write out the guidelines for living (comfortably) in a French Muslim state; the satire in this part is quite well done but not taken as far as it might have been.
That was my main problem with this book, the scenario is really too mild in the end. I think Houellebecq had several great ideas here and might have written something more powerful. But to do that, he’d have had to ditch his narrator at the abandoned motorway stop in the first half of this story. There! I ‘bared’ my teeth in spite of my good intentions…
Would a society based on "Moderate Islam" be such a bad thing?
This seems to be the kind of book that divides critics into the two equally useless camps:
1) This is islamophobic and racist garbage! 2) Bravo! A dark satire!
My view is that it's neither.
All Houllebecq is saying is that a completely secular society is like a vacuum. Given the opportunity, it will let itself be filled. If you don't want to risk it being filled with something you don't like, then you shouldn't have emptied it completely in the first place.
With this in mind, Houellebecq goes on to show how the polarization in French politics could pave the way for a Muslim party to get into power, and what it could mean for the French population.
Returning to the question in the title - would that be a bad thing? Well, it turns out, not necessarily. From a perspective of power, comfort and freedom, at least not for men half the population. Or at least the heterosexual and educated part of it.
I don't see this novel as an attack on Islam. I am no expert on religion, but most of what he says about it seems to be accurate. If anything, he is merely pointing out that Islam as a religion is much more capable of social change due to it's hereditary element and ability to bind large amounts of people to it's cause - whether it's for "good" or "bad". The sense of cultural loss and inability to feel any sort of connection to your own roots which dominates the French secular society in Soumission (and perhaps also real life) appears as a no less bleak situation than what Islam offers, namely a life with meaning and a clear direction. The downside? The return of the patriarchyJust some minor details concerning women's rights
Houellebecq is criticizing everyone and no one, really. He isn't pointing fingers of laying blame. He is merely pointing out that a secular society is fragile, very fragile, and that it to a certain extent has to be combined with a set of cultural values if it is to remain in place. Otherwise, it will slowly erode under the pressure of other ways of life, which in this case just happens to be Islam. For better or worse? Better for some and worse for others, like every other society in the history of mankind. Houellebecq doesn't presume to have the answer - he is simply saying that it will be different, and that it might very well happen.
If you only read one book about sex, religion and politics this year, make sure it's this one!
It packs enormous punch into (far) less than 300 pages, raising the question yet again why novels need to be 562 or 1,376 pages long (and if they do on the basis of some subjective criterion, why they aren't written with such consistent verve, intelligence, wit and humour as "Submission").
For all the philosophy, this novel is paced like a mass market thriller or the screenplay for a prophetic, if not quite dystopian, film. Think an R-rated "Fahrenheit 451" or "Super-Cannes" meets "1984" or "Brave New World".
Actually, the plot alone would make a fantastic film. In the meantime, we must be content with an outstanding satirical novel of ideas.
If you still want your novels to be encyclopaedic, "Submission" is firmly in the Diderotian camp.
This time, it's no mere helmet cam trip through Asian sex tourist destinations. Instead, it actively mourns the decline of the secular values of the Enlightenment, the French Republic and the "Encyclopédie".
The first person narrators of Houellebecq's fiction are as misanthropic as anything conjured up by Louis-Ferdinand Céline.
However, the misanthropy is arguably a natural response to developments in modern consumer society, which has secreted us inside a spiritual vacuum. It seems that, literally, there is no other way for us to be.
From Engagement to Isolation
The narrator, François, is an unmarried mid-forties humanities professor. To describe him, you have to use words like: isolated, reclusive, withdrawn, unemotional, bored, abject, purposeless, unmotivated, hopeless, melancholy, uninvolved, resigned, disillusioned, deluded, disengaged, the very opposite of "engagé":
“I realised that part of my life, probably the best part, was behind me”.
He is close to suicide, but he can't be bothered taking the final step. He figures that he has no more reason to kill himself than anybody else alive. On a date, he's just as likely to put on a Nick Drake album. He has no future to speak of. He just is. Until one day, when he won't be.
Yet, François is the fictional vehicle, if not exactly an anti-hero, through which European civilisation realises its destiny.
There's a massive vacuum at the centre of François' being, but nothing is capable of filling it. Nothing can please or pleasure him, not even promiscuous sex with his teenaged students (his spiritual quest ferrets out paramours who smell like teen spirit). His narcissism has led inevitably to depression:
“In the end, my cock was all I had."
And it's of little practical use to him, "since my erections were rarer and less dependable and required bodies that were firm, supple and flawless."
The flesh might be flaccid, but the humour is Sterne.
Filling the Vacuum
"Submission" might wear the garb of satire. However, it still explores the causes of the vacuum as well as the forces that are intent on filling it, ostensibly for the purpose of satisfying our communal, personal and spiritual needs.
A lot of the blame lies at the foot of sex (?), religion and politics. To this extent, the novel was bound to be controversial. However, Houellebecq proclaims:
"I will not avoid a subject because I know it is controversial."
He just jumps right in, head first.
In order to explore the dimensions of the controversy, the novel projects forward to the French election in 2022.
It's a brilliant literary strategy that blends realism and fantasy.
The population is so divided that no one political party or ideology can command a majority in its own right.
Equally, the need to differentiate between like agendas blocks the scope for compromise and coalition (at least, in advance of the election). The Far Right National Front by itself can almost double (34%) the vote of the Socialist Party and the Muslim Brotherhood (or Fraternity)(22% each).
Despite the popular apprehension about Islam, the Left decides to form a government with the Muslim leader Muhammed Ben Abbes in the role of President and a lily-livered Socialist in the role of Prime Minister.
France – European Parliament Election 2014: Final Results
This is no radical jihadist Islam. Ben Abbes is a charming, sophisticated, cosmopolitan, multicultural, moderate Muslim. He walks confidently on the international stage.
He recognises that the values of the Republic have allowed him to achieve the highest position in the country. Yet he remains a consummate politician and manipulator of public and private opinion:
"The reality is that Ben Abbes is an extremely crafty politician, the craftiest, most cunning politician France has known since François Mitterand. And unlike Mitterand he has a truly historic vision."
The Pragmatic March from Abandon to Abandonment
Nevertheless, some aspects of the Islamic agenda are non-negotiable. What is fascinating is Houellebecq's insight into the pragmatic process by which many secular values are readily abandoned by the public, the bureaucracy, academia and the Left, in order to deny power to the Far Right.
What is jettisoned includes the separation of religion and the state, academic freedom, a public education system beyond the age of 15, and anything resembling women's rights:
"What the Muslim Brotherhood really wants is for most women to study Home Economics, once they finish junior school, then get married as soon as possible - with a small minority studying art or literature first. That’s their vision of an ideal society. Also, every teacher would have to be Muslim. No exceptions."
The Temptation of François
François witnesses these changes from a privileged position in academia.
Initially, he is dismissed like all other academics. Later he is offered a position at three times the level of remuneration, provided he will convert to Islam. Aware that he has frequently had sexual liaisons with his female students, the authorities offer to find him at least two wives, it being implicit that they could be as young as 13. It's almost enough to restore both cock and confidence (assuming they're not one and the same).
The dynamic of the potential conversion provides the novel's main plot device. François is actually a renowned expert on Joris-Karl Huysmans, a Decadent writer who wrote "A Rebours" and later converted from atheism to Catholicism at a similar stage of his life. Thus, the conversion is something for which François has been theoretically and mentally prepar(-ed/ing) for the whole of his adult life.
God Resurrected in and by Academia
Many French make the transition to the new Islamic society with little need for adjustment in their personal lives. However, the role of an academic allows Houellebecq to devise an intellectual analysis of Islam within a pre-existing philosophical tradition.
Houellebecq has previously been prosecuted (unsuccessfully) for making comments that might incite hatred against Islam ("all religions are stupid, but Islam is the stupidest of all"). Initially, the response to the release of the book by those who hadn't read it was that it was Islamophobic and anti-French. However, the opposite is in fact the case. In a subsequent interview, he revealed that he has now read the Koran and it "turns out to be much better than I thought...the most obvious conclusion is that the jihadists are bad Muslims." Thus, he purports to have no prejudice against Islam per se.
The Occlusion of the National Affront
The Muslim characters are highly articulate advocates for their faith who place it in the context of European civilisation, even if some of its tenets aren't compatible with the secular Republican values of liberty, equality and fraternity (which arguably have failed France, well, at least its spiritual needs).
The fascinating thing about the book is that these arguments are given an intelligent and potentially appealing spin. You can imagine how society might one day get to the point where Muslims, despite comprising less than 20% of the population, become a social and political force that has a significant role in the mainstream (certainly one that can and must be embraced by the tired remnants of the Left in preference to the Far Right National Front).
Putting Man in His Place
The Islamic view (according to François) is that secular values have resulted in a rampant individualism at the expense of genuine community, fraternity and brotherhood. Here's how they view secularism and its mission against God:
"It wasn’t enough for them to coldly deny the existence of God – they had to refuse it, like Bakunin: 'Even if God existed, it would be necessary to abolish Him.' They were atheists like Kirilov in 'The Possessed'.
"They rejected God because they wanted to put man in his place [ed: in the place, and instead, of God]. They were humanists, with lofty ideas about human liberty, human dignity."
Now that there was nothing but man, he was in a vacuum of his own creation.
The goal of religion is to restore man to his proper place, beneath God.
No Room for Sisters in the Brotherhood
Ironically, the word brotherhood reflects the real significance of the changes that are implemented by the Muslim Brotherhood.
The people who lose the most are women. They are by definition excluded from the brotherhood. Their role is confined to (polygamous) marriage, childbirth and parenthood. The most obvious change on the street is the sight of all women wearing conservative clothing and hijabs.
The Submission of Women
From the point of view of an outsider to both religion and Islam, the major problem with the Islamic vision is its treatment of women.
The explanation of the Islamic attitude towards women in the novel (assuming it is correctly portrayed) was enlightening, at least for me.
I had forgotten that the word "Islam" actually means "submission" and hence provides both the central metaphor and the name of the novel (as well as Theo van Gogh's short film).
It's argued that man must submit to God/Allah/the Creator and his laws, but equally that woman must submit to man.
Paradoxically, the role of women in the family is so paramount that they must be sheltered from the burden of work outside the family unit. It becomes the role of the male to financially provide for the family. It's almost as if Islam is doing women a favour by relieving them of a burden necessitated by life in a modern western economy. (You could even question whether a western economy, and therefore the way we currently work, is surplus to our real needs.)
The question today is: how could this vision be imposed on a Western society?
If 50% of the population are women, how could Islam be imposed peacefully on independent women as soon as 2022?
The answer depends on the existing apparatus of democracy, hence the pivotal significance of the 2022 election.
If 10% of the population were Muslim women, then it's possible that a coalition involving an Islamic party could garner as much as 55% of the vote, assuming the rest of the vote was split equally (45% for the Right, 45% for a coalition including the Muslim Brotherhood).
It would be this simple to arrive at a mandate for legislating a change of the rights and obligations of women. Having become law, the state would bring the full weight of the law down on women who failed to comply, quite apart from any social sanctions that might be applied.
Islam and Far Right Nativism
The attitude towards women reveals an anomaly at the heart of the political relationship between Far Right "Nativism" and Islam.
Nativists object to the presence of foreigners in their midst. However:
"...their irrational hostility to Islam [blinds] them to the obvious: on every question that really mattered, the nativists and the Muslims were in perfect agreement. When it came to rejecting atheism and humanism, or [promoting] the necessary submission of women, or the return of patriarchy, they were fighting exactly the same fight. And today this fight, to establish a new organic phase of civilisation, could no longer be waged in the name of Christianity."
Christianity has been fatally compromised by its lengthy cohabitation with the secular state of liberal individualism, which once it "attacked that ultimate social structure, the family, and thus the birth rate,...signed its own death warrant; Muslim dominance was a foregone conclusion."
Against the Enlightenment, Against the Grain, À Rebours
Apart from Huysmans, much of the philosophical conjecture sounds like de Tocqueville, Gibbon and Spengler. We're witnessing the decline of the West, the decline and fall of the Judaeo-Christian Empire, as a result of a virus caught from secular humanism.
Or perhaps, given that European civilisation has already become secular humanist, it's more accurate to say that Europe's mortal wound has been self-inflicted. Houellebecq quotes Toynbee approvingly: "Civilisations die not by murder, but by suicide."
In Muslim eyes, the value of Enlightenment reason has been exaggerated. It's irrelevant to most of us:
"The totality of animals, the crushing majority of men, live without ever finding the least need for justification. They live because they live, and that’s all, and that’s how they reason - and then I suppose they die because they die, and this, in their eyes, ends the analysis."
An Alternative Projection
While the narrative ceases within months of the election result and before we know for certain that François has converted, what is implicit in the above analysis of secular humanism is the possibility that Islam might use its coalition with the French Left to arrive at a broader, more pervasive and more socially conservative alliance with the Far Right National Front.
Once this was achieved, secular humanism and liberalism could be extinguished altogether:
"Secondary and higher education [could be] completely privatised. All of these reforms were meant to ‘restore the centrality, the dignity, of the family as the building block of society'...
"For these Muslims, the real enemy - the thing they fear and hate – isn’t Catholicism. It’s secularism. It’s laicism. It’s atheist materialism. They think of Catholics as fellow believers. Catholicism is a religion of the Book. Catholics are one step away from converting to Islam – that’s the true, original Muslim vision of Christianity."
The portrait of Ben Abbes is far more positive than this. However, this speculation is consistent with the views of some of his supporters and the analysis of François. It makes sense that religions, no matter how diverse, might come together to defeat atheism and its political manifestations, especially as only they might be able to fill the spiritual vacuum that seems to be the heart of the matter.
Houellebecq has said something to this effect in a recent interview:
"My book describes the destruction of the philosophy handed down by the Enlightenment, which no longer makes sense to anyone, or to very few people. Catholicism, by contrast, is doing rather well. I would maintain that an alliance between Catholics and Muslims is possible."
While many see Houellebcq's fiction as misogynistic, it's conceivable that the only factor standing between today and this possible future is the resolve of women.
Presumably, they will get little or no support from men like François. His example is evidence that the submission of the male can be acquired for the price of the right to polygamy.
Pro-Islamic women protest outside the Great Mosque in Paris.
"I think, then, that the species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything that ever before existed in the world; our contemporaries will find no prototype of it in their memories. I seek in vain for an expression that will accurately convey the whole of the idea I have formed of it; the old words despotism and tyranny are inappropriate: the thing itself is new, and since I cannot name, I must attempt to define it.
I seek to trace the novel features under which despotism may appear in the world. The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men, all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living apart, is as a stranger to the fate of all the rest; his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind. As for the rest of his fellow citizens, he is close to them, but he does not see them; he touches them, but he does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone; and if his kindred still remain to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his country." (Alexis de Tocqueville)
No sex holidays. No swingers clubs. The smutty stuff kept to a minimum (some ball-licking is about as hardcore as it gets).
What the hell is going on?
This is a side of him I didn't think possible; having a male protagonist thinking less with his dick and more with his head. Houellebecq tackles one of the most challenging and controversial topics in recent times: The Islamification of Europe. Trouble is that Submission, despite the fact of it feeling like an important and relevant novel, really didn't turn out to be as good as I thought it would. With the last third in particular being rather dull. This Parisian political satire; and I can't stress satire enough, might rattle a few cages with religious folk or those who take everything too seriously, and has even been labelled as anti-Islam, but I didn't see it like that, as for me it was far more scorning towards France as a whole. Houellebecq has been and still is one one of those writers who cause critics to somewhat panic, since placing him is an all together tricky thing to do. He is probably the most famous French novelist of his generation, having avid followers and those I'm sure who would love to spit in his face.
The set-up here sees the respectable republican parties fragment the vote in a multiparty French election, with the two top runners being Marine Le Pen of the extreme right, and Mohammed Ben Abbes, the fictional leader of the French Muslim Brotherhood, who ended up nudging out the socialists. In the runoff, the French left backs the Muslims, preferring the devil it doesn’t know to the one it does. Ben Abbes’s government soon imposes a kind of relaxed Sharia law throughout France with the novel's central joke and overall point being that the French elite are cravenly eager to collaborate fully with the new government, and thrilled not only to become Muslims but to yield to a fresh and self-assured authoritarianism.
Through the lonely and almost suicidal narrator, who is a professor at the Sorbonne and expert on Joris-Karl Huysmans, Houellebecq takes the conventional pleasure-seeking surface of French life and shows it as entirely absurd, which is one of the reasons he satirizes it so effectively. The one thing that surprised me though is that when he wants to be he can get quite literary. In fact there is a whole chunk of the novel featuring a complex analysis of Huysmans' work, who was a novelist of Decadence and the Church. The literary obsessions play an important part, since it turns out that the principal target of the satire is not in fact French Islam but the spinelessness of the French intellectual class, including the narrator who kind of pokes fun at himself.
While this is certainly a different kind of novel in regards to what I've read by Houellebecq before, I can't say that it was any better (alright, it was better than Lanzarote, but then that wasn't difficult), and I look at something like Atomised and found there was much more to like.
Il est de bon ton de critiquer le dernier Houellebecq. Les fans des Particules élémentaires y voient une œuvre mineure, annonciatrice de l'inéluctable déclin du grand homme ; les contempteurs du prix Goncourt, un énième ressassement de sa veulerie beauf.
Je ne crierai pas avec les loups. Pour trois raisons.
1. Le style. Houellebecq écrit bien. Fichtrement bien. Avec l'air de ne pas y toucher. Et pourtant avec un perfectionnisme qui force d'autant plus l'admiration qu'il a l'humilité de ne pas se laisser voir. Loin de la prose prétentieuse d'Ono-dit-Biot ou de la simplicité rêche de Toussaint, Houellebecq nous offre un vrai plaisir de lecture. Son cynisme lui évite la morgue ou le didactisme. La profondeur de ses références - et je me fiche qu'elles aient été pompées sur Wikipédia dès lors qu'elles sont articulées avec intelligence - lui fait échapper à la superficialité.
2. Le sujet. Houellebecq a le don de disséquer notre société. D'appuyer là où ça fait mal. Il raconte comment la victoire au second tour de l'élection présidentielle d'un Musulman modéré face à Marine Le Pen entraîne l'islamisation bon enfant de la France. Pour autant, Houellebecq n'est ni Nostradamus ni Éric Zemmour. Son roman est une fiction et peu importe qu'elle se réalise ou pas (reproche-t-on à Orwell que 1984 ne ressemble pas à son "1984" ?)
3. Un titre. Comme on le sait déjà, le héros du roman est un Sorbonnard dépressif, spécialiste de J.-K. Huysmans, qui se convertit lentement aux valeurs du nouveau régime. Pourtant, quand on referme le livre, on est pris d'un doute : s'agit-il d'une prophétie amère et pessimiste ? ou au contraire d'un appel à l'insoumission comme le titre du livre, qu'il faudrait lire en creux, nous y exhorte ?
What a waste of a good idea! The basic premise for this book is both interesting and pertinent. Set in the near-future, there’s been an Islamic take-over of France. The Muslim Brotherhood has come to power – relatively peacefully and democratically. It seems an almost natural progression. Of course there are changes in society. Women are back in the home. No more revealing clothing allowed, and so on. Our protagonist is a middle-aged academic who essentially sees the world around him in terms of sex. So instead of a thoughtful analysis of what such political upheaval would really mean to France, and by implication, the rest of Europe, we are subjected to page after page of his distasteful sexual exploits and his misogynistic thoughts about women. And the reason for this is…? Well, I never quite managed to fathom that one. Does anyone care about an aging academic obsessed with that writer of decadence Huysmans and with his own sexual prowess? I certainly didn’t. Do I care about possible Islamic influence on Western Society? Yes, I do. Do I care about the possible accommodations that might have to be made with Islam in Europe in the future? Yes, I do. Do I care about increasing decadence in Western society? Yes. I do. Does Houellebecq give any answers in this tedious novel? No, he doesn’t. So what, exactly, is the point of it all? Beats me. Just a bit of narcissistic self-indulgence, I fear.
Για έναν συγγραφέα όπως ο Ουελμπέκ, τα συναισθήματα είναι ακραία μεταξύ των αναγνωστών: είτε τον λατρεύεις είτε τον απεχθάνεσαι. Την απέχθεια δεν την καταλαβαίνω, μα τα πράματα έτσι είναι και δεν μπορούν να είναι αλλιώς. Μιλώντας για ένα βιβλίο το Ουελμπέκ, λοιπόν, θεωρώ πως πρέπει να είναι ξεκάθαρη η αρχική θέση του αναγνώστη. Κι εγώ δηλώνω οπαδός του. Το βιβλίο αυτό το έπιασα μετά το μάλλον μέτριο «Ο Χάρτη και η Επικράτεια». Οι προσδοκίες μου ήταν ανάμεικτες και σαφώς επηρεασμένες από το ευρύτερο κλίμα αποδοχής του βιβλίου: αντιδράσεις από όλ��ς τις πλευρές για την θεματολογία του οι οποίες κλιμακώθηκαν με το αιματοκύλισμα της εφημερίδας Charlie Hebdo.
Τελικά, ας τα πάρουμε από την αρχή. Ένας καθηγητής, στο Παρίσι του 2022, δίχως να περιμένει πολλά από την ζωή του, σκόρπιο σεξ, αποτυχημένες σχέσεις – μια γενικά μέτρια ζωή, όπως όλων μας- μας μεταφέρει τις εξελίξεις στην Γαλλική ζωή, αλλά και ακολούθως στον Ευρωπαϊκό χάρτη, καθώς το Μουσουλμανικό κόμμα παίρνει τα ηνία. Καλό; Νομίζω είναι ακριβώς αυτό που κάνει ο Ουελμπέκ σε όλα του τα βιβλία: μια εναλλακτική πραγματικότητα, μια ματιά σε ένα ίσως που μπορεί να μην είναι και τόσο απίθανο.
Το πιο καλό είναι πως ο καυστικός πεσιμισμός του, αυτός που αγαπάω, είναι δυνατός εδώ. Είναι παρών. Ήδη στο δεύτερο κεφάλαιο, ο πρωταγωνιστής, αναρωτάται για τον σκοπό της ζωής και καταλήγει πως το να ζεις δίχως να το ψάχνεις και τελικά να πεθαίνεις, δίχως πάλι να το ψάχνεις, αρκεί στους ανθρώπους για να κάνουν τον κύκλο της ζωής τους. Ο ίδιος νιώθει πως πρέπει να δικαιώσει την παρουσία του επί της γης μα του πέφτουν λίγα τα ορόσημα της καριέρας του.
Στο βιβλίο γίνονται αναφορές σε διάφορες θεωρίες από κλάδους της φιλοσοφίας που επιστρατεύονται για να δικαιολογήσουν την πιθανή επάνοδο του μουσουλμανισμού. Και φυσικά αυτό το μάλλον εφιαλτικό όραμα του Ουελμπέκ για την τελικά παντοκρατορία αυτής της θρησκείας ως του μόνου συστήματος που θα μπορέσει να αντικαταστήσει τον σύγχρονο καπιταλισμό. Τον προσεγγίζει με τέτοιο τρόπο που ο αναγνώστης δεν θα βαρεθεί, αντιθέτως θα θέλει να μπει για λίγο στο μυαλό του Ουλμπέκ. Τάσεις που διαμορφώνονται στο μέλλον ή αποκτούν μια διακριτή σύσταση, καθώς και κινήματα και αντιδράσεις πάνω σε αυτές τις αλλαγές συνήθως δραματικές, είναι χαρακτηριστικά της θεματολογίας του κι εδώ είναι πιο ισχυρά από ποτέ.
Μάλλον, όμως, η γενική υπόθεση δεν λέει πολλά. Στο βιβλίο ελάχιστα πράγματα συμβαίνουν πέραν αυτών μέσα στο κεφάλι του ήρωα που γαμάει και προβληματίζεται πάνω στην ζωή – την δική του και των υπόλοιπων συνανθρώπων του, με τους οποίους μάλλον δεν θέλει και πολλά-πολλά. Είναι περισσότερο ένα μέσο για να ξεδιπλώσει ο Ουελμπέκ την ιοβόλα αφήγησή του. Σημεία όπως εκεί όπου αντιμέτωπος με την ματαιότητα της ζωής και το τέλμα του υλισμού γυροφέρνει τη αυτοκτονία καταλήγοντας σε ένα κρεσέντο απαξίωσης των συνανθρώπων του είναι που τον χαρακτηρίζουν μηδενιστή και μισάνθρωπο. Και φαλλοκράτη καθώς αναγκαστικά καταλήγει πως και η γυναίκα είναι συνάνθρωπος, αλλά σαφώς πιο δελεαστική και απαραίτητη, γιατί είναι κάτι πιο εξωτικό. Εγώ τον λέω ρεαλιστή, ευφυώς κυνικό και χιουμορίστα.
Διαβάζοντας το βιβλίο απόρησα με την υποδοχή και τον σάλο που δημιούργησε, φτάνοντας στα γεγονότα του Σαρλι. Βγαίνοντας ως εξώφυλλο ο συγγραφέας στο περιοδικό, οι φανατικοί Μουσουλμάνοι εξαγριώθηκαν – ήταν νωπές οι αναμνήσεις των δηλώσεών του περί του Ισλαμισμού ως την πιο ηλίθια θρησκεία. Έφτασαν ψηλά ιστάμενοι της κυβέρνησης –νομίζω ο ίδιος ο πρωθυπουργός- να αποκηρύξουν τις ιδέες του Ουελμπέκ ως μη συμβατές με το όραμα μιας Γαλλίας πολύ-πολυτισμικής. Ναι, πειράζει τον μουσουλμανισμό στο βιβλίο, μα όχι παραπάνω από όσο οτιδήποτε άλλο από τα ήθη και τις αξίες των δυτικών, μέχρι τη διάθεση μας να συνεχίσουμε να ζούμε. Τουναντίον, λιγότερο θα έλεγα. Δεν τον πυροβολεί. Τον αφήνει να σταθεί ως μια εναλλακτική προοπτική και μάλιστα την ανακατασκευάζει με πειθώ και επιμέλεια.
Κάθε φορά που ακούω σχόλια από κόσμο που εξοργίζεται με τον Ουελμπέκ ενισχύεται η άποψή μου πως ο κόσμος χωρίζεται σε αυτούς που έχουν χιούμορ και σε εκείνους που δεν έχουν. Κι εγώ ανήκω στους πρώτους, δίχως να θέλω να περιαυτολογήσω. Νομίζω όλοι οφείλουμε σε εάν βαθμό να βλέπουμε την ζωή μέσα από το πρίσμα της αμφισβήτησης και του σαρκασμού. Πρωτίστως, όμως ως αναγνώστες δεν πρέπει να ξεχνάμε πως ο συγγραφέας δεν ασπάζεται απαραίτητα όσα λένε οι ήρωές του, αλλά δοκιμάζει ιδέες. Πράγματα που του φαίνονται δελεαστικά και με δυσκολία τα εκστομίζει στην αληθινή ζωή, τα βάζει να τα πούνε τα δημιουργήματά του. Το αν συμφωνήσει ή μετανιώσει αργότερα, αυτό είναι κάτι που δεν με απασχολεί.
Το βιβλίο διαβάζεται ευχάριστα. Σχεδόν εθιστικά, γιατί έχει τον χειμαρρώδη λόγο του Ουελμπέκ. Δεν γίνονται πολλά πράματα, πέρα από τα οράματα των ανατροπών σε μια μακροκλίμακα. Μα μόνο για τις σκέψεις αυτές και την ωραία γραφή, αξίζει ένα 3άρι με τα όλα του. Το 3αρι του ευανάγνωστου που ίσως να ξεχαστεί, που αδυνατώ να του προσδώσω με��αλύτερη αξία (πχ διαχρονική), αλλά που δεν παύει να αποτελεί ένα ενδεδειγμένο ανάγνωσμα.
Είχα καιρό να γελάσω έτσι. Το κακιασμένο σχεδόν μισάνθρωπο χιούμορ του Ουελμπέκ τσακίζει κόκαλα. Δεν ξέρω αν είναι ταλαντούχος συγγραφέας, αλλά είναι σίγουρα μια παμπόνηρη αλεπού, που ξέρει τον τρόπο να σατιρίζει ανελέητα. Αντί να γράψει ένα έργο που να καταφέρεται ενάντια στο Ισλάμ γράφει ένα βιβλίο που φαινομενικά το εγκωμιάζει, το παρουσιάζει να επικρατεί και πετυχαίνει έτσι και τους Μουσουλμάνους να μην προσβάλλει και τους Δυτικούς να προβληματίσει. Βασικά τις γυναίκες. Να κάτσω εγώ να φορέσω την μπούργκα και να υποχρεωθώ να υπηρετώ μαζί με άλλες συν-συζύγους τον άντρα μου; Ναι καλά. Κορίτσια θα κάνουμε το σουτιέν μας σφεντόνα και όποιον πάρει ο χάρος.
Η “Υποταγή” πετυχαίνει να ξυπνά την επαναστατική διάθεση ακόμα και στην πιο υποταγμένη και υποχωρητική γυναίκα. Και το πετυχαίνει με διαολεμένα υπόγειο τρόπο. Στο σερβίρει ζεστό, σαν αναπόδραστη πραγματικότητα, πασπαλισμένο με ακαταμάχητα ευφυολογήματα και στο τέλος σε αφήνει με την αίσθηση πως αντί για τα άκρα, πρέπει να επικρατήσει εδώ και τώρα ένας τίμιος και ανοιχτός διάλογος για αυτό το φλέγον θέμα, χωρίς τις ξεπερασμένες και σάπιες ρητορικές του περασμένου αιώνα.
Ένα από τα πολλά θέματα που θίγει είναι ο θεσμός της οικογένειας. Δεν ξέρω πως έχει η κατάσταση στη Γαλλία, γιατί στην Ελλάδα ο θεσμός αυτός λειτουργεί ακόμα αποτελεσματικά, σε πρακτικό επίπεδο, δεδομένης και της οικονομικής κρίσης αλλά και σε συναισθηματικό. Άλλο θέμα είναι η στάση της αριστεράς, που εθελοτυφλεί και ξεπουλάει τις αξίες της για λίγη εξουσία και της δεξιάς που κατακρημνίζεται στις ιδεολογικές αγκυλώσεις της, του χριστιανισμού που δεν καλύπτει τις ανάγκες του σύγχρονου ανθρώπου, και της αδυναμίας των πολιτών να παρέμβουν δυναμικά – παραμένουν θεατές, σε ένα ριάλιτι που τους τέρπει και αγχώνονται μόνο μπροστά στο ενδεχόμενο να χάσουν τη βολή τους.
Δεν υπάρχει κανένας λόγος ανησυχίας. Το Ισλάμ είναι υπερβολικά διασπασμένο για να κατακτήσει τον κόσμο. Οι ίδιοι οι αρχηγοί του το έχουν ήδη πουλήσει στον βωμό των δικών τους συμφερόντων. Το Ισλάμ δεν μπορεί να εξασφαλίσει την κοινωνία αφθονίας που απεικονίζεται στο μυθιστόρημα του Ουελμπέκ. Κι αυτό άλλωστε εξηγεί και το προσφυγικό ρεύμα των βασανισμένων ανθρώπων που ζητούν, όχι να κατακτήσουν, αλλά να ξεφύγουν από αυτήν την παράνοια.
Άλλωστε η Γαλλία, δεν είναι μοναχικό νησί επάνω σε αυτόν το πλανήτη. Το παράδειγμα της Οθωμανικής αυτοκρατορίας που δεν κατάφερε σε βάθος αιώνων (αλλά και των προγενέστερων αραβικών χαλιφάτων) να αφομοιώσει άλλους λαούς – αναφερομαι σε αυτούς που επαναστάτησαν και τελικά πέτυχαν ανεξαρτησία, στην Ευρώπη και στα Βαλκάνια αλλά και σε όσους εντός του Ισλάμ απέτυχαν να αποκτήσουν την συνείδηση μιας πολιτικής ενότητας - είναι η απόδειξη πως ούτε με το καλό ούτε με την βία μπορείς να εξαναγκάσεις τους ανθρώπους να ασπαστούν κάτι που απέχει από το πολιτισμικό σημείο αναφοράς τους.
Πέρα από την θεωρία, στην πράξη μια μετάβαση για να επικρατήσει και να έχει διάρκεια πρέπει να πηγαίνει από το χειρότερο στο καλύτερο. Οτιδήποτε συνιστά υποβάθμιση φέρνει αργά ή γρήγορα την αντίδραση και την απόρριψη. Και το Ουελμπεκικό σύμπαν είναι έτσι δομημένο ώστε να καταδικάζει το 50% της ανθρώπινης κοινωνίας στο σκοτάδι. Πόσο να κρατήσει μια τέτοια παράνοια;
The people believing in a religion, any religion, have different degrees of faith. There are for example fundamentalists who not only take their own religion seriously, following their holy books with strict literalism and who often also want to force their beliefs on others using different methods.
Then there are traditionalists who stick to their religious traditions but respects people of other religions. They are the ones always seeking shelter in freedom of beliefs and to carry on their traditions – which they deserve as well; as long as it is a question of personal religion but their idea of religious freedom often paradoxically includes a patriarchal control over their women (who are expected to act in a set, more or less submissive ways) and children (who are forced to go through religious education as per their parents’ wishes).
The third category may be called reductionists to whom religion is reduced to mere matters of God and prayers. Religious books are read selectively and as poems. In other places like life-style, education of children, medicine etc –religion doesn’t play a role.
The last category is of mere identifiers –who aren’t exactly religious but it forms a part of their identity, an identity that connects them with people with whom they have long associated with. The religion, scriptures etc are mere symbols for them but symbols they have come to respect.
Now this categorization is just a little less stupid when compared to general statements made about a whole community – there can be no absolute classification but there are some benefits of using it as a temporary construct to help thinking laterally. For example, the outside critics of a religion and its most fundamentalist and sometimes also traditionalist believers are alike in at least one sense – they both read scriptures literally. Also, they both put very high premium as to impact that word of scriptures should have upon life of people. The two groups argue with each-other and other categories try hard not to get painted black-or-white. As to which interpretation is correct, I will say that even human laws are thought to be bad if they allow for so many interpretations.
If while talking about a religion, you make a general statement regarding its followers than you are probably talking about a behavior common to first of first two categories (Or a behaviour that wasn't there at all) And if behavior you commented upon was controversial, it might offend the innocent people from latter categories. The come-back of religion
MH makes some kind of distinction too – the head of the party that comes to power is a traditionalist Muslim but not fundamentalist. He despises terrorists. They win power through peaceful means. The party actually supports Zionist movement, and they are friendly to Church too. There are no hate-crimes or forced conversations in their regimes as you might expect to see in a more paranoid novel. You can see they are more tolerant of other people's religions.
However, the problem is they are still traditionalists – and traditions return. Special educational institutions providing Islamic education with only Muslim teachers where education moves around Quran. Co-ed is removed from scene, education for women is to be limited. Women suddenly started wearing veils and polygamy is back.
Another tradition that returns is that of patriarchal family. Women are not supposed to work. And then there is polygamy and teenage girls being married. As is the case with any Patriarchal society, by the end, women have become currency.
You could see why many men like François, the protagonist, would love it with all advantages it offers to men. That explains aceeptance of change for at least some of the men. But why did women let go of their liberty so easily? The conditions in Handsmaid’s Tale were far tougher and yet there was resistance – here despite all the democratic rights, there are no protests. What François says about increasing distance between government and people might have explained why protests might have failed, but no protests? From homosexuals either? I wouldn't have minded author saying that prostests failed or that there were few protests but author claims that government actually remained popular, from when did people started accepting changes so easily? The author seems to put very little faith with French love for their values.
Let us just say religion creates an order or an illusion of order (depending upon your faith) – saving people from burden of liberty by choosing for them. Without God, there is only chaos and François believes that people are incapable of choosing for themselves when faced with chaos, they would rather submit to laws given to them by someone else. Atheists are sadder, have fewer children, feel spiritual vacuum, blah blah blah. Religion serves you everything on plate - François, single as long as atheist, was offered two wives as he became Muslim. There is the whole evolutionary advantage that religion has. Actually, I don’t think religion might have given any survival advantage and even if it did, it doesn’t do any longer. Its been a while we have stopped living in jungles. Some people might be scared of chaos after once they lifted away the veil of God and want to return to religion but I don’t think it will be the general trend. I believe most people are willing to pay price of uncertainty for their freedom - we aren't like the horse from campus parable, and while we are on subject, evolutionary defense of polygamy is another thing which might have given Darwin restless legs in his grave. Islamophobia?
MH’s central argument is more of a contest between rationalism vs modern culture, patriarchy vs liberalism, religion vs atheism , but definitely not Islam vs West. New government was actually trying to enhance power of European Union and was friendly to church and Jews but had atheism as it biggest enemy.
However the problem is that he failed to see that tradationalism exists in all religions – he could have made his argument by letting church gain power rather than Islam. It would have been more convincing as Christianity is majority religion in country rather than make a hard to digest case in convincing us that peaceful takeover of France by Islam is possible. He spends a lot of time doing so taking sheltar in petrodollars that an Islamic state might attract – for about a quarter of book, another two quarters go to poking fun at academics and François discussing his sexual life (another professor who sleeps with his students, I might as well start a shelf). All ideas are contained in about one-fourth of the book. If it wasn't for one or two of its ideas that made me think, it would have been a one-star book.
Unlike MH, I don’t think that French Muslim comprise of large percentages of traditionalists, most of them probably belong to later two categories and so their religion play a far lesser role in their lives, Still it is dislike-able that whenever non-Christians win some political power in one of Christian or secular countries of West, it is assumed that their religion will play an important role in their decision making. How many non-Christian presidents secular countries of West have ever seen (compare: India has had people of four major religions act as their president or prime-minister as heads of government or country)? You can bet there won’t ever be atheist presidents in USA. Charle Hebdo felt called upon to ridicule Islam because Muslims won some political power in France – although they used the same democratic process. I guess it is high time the world realise that it is not immigrants that there democracy need fear but native Trumps.
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 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
Not only none of this sound scary, none of this sounded especially new.
Francois, the protagonist and narrator of Submission, is a man thoroughly burned out; although he teaches at the Sorbonne and is a specialist in the work of Joris-Karl Huysmans, he thinks little of his job and by his own admission has not done any important academic research in decades. At 44, He has no contact with his divorced parents, and no real, close friends; he eats TV dinners and browses porn sites. Francois seems unable to form any meaningful relationship with anyone, especially women - although he is deeply lonely, he seems capable only of short flings with his much younger students. Francois feels that he is balancing on the verge of personal dissolution: he casually contemplates whether he should just commit suicide, as he simply cannot find meaning in anything. It is interesting to compare Francois to Mersault from Camus's The Stranger, which coincidentially I have read just before this book. Mersault is apathetic, and feels no emotion - but this is how he always was, and he knows no other way to live. In contrast, Francois feels a desperate yearning to feel something, but is unable to; Mersault feels bored and bothered by the world with its emphasis on emotion and feelings, while Francois feels betrayed by a world which does not give him anything or anyone that would make him feel. Both are very alone, but react to their loneliness very differently.
Besides Huysmans, Francois does not display any lasting passion or interest for anything, including his own country - in his own words he doesn't know much about it, and is in no way an engaged citizen. But even Francois cannot not notice the turmoil that is sweeping across France - after a series of political scandals, public trust in government is at an all time low. The two main candidates competing for votes in the presidential elections are polar opposites: Marine Le Pen from the National Front, and Mohammed Ben Abbes - creator of France's first openly Islamic party, the Muslim Brotherhood. As the two rivals go head to head in the polls, the charismatic Ben Abbes secures support of the Socialists, and eventually wins the election by a very slim margin.
France, a country famous across the globe for its secular society, legacy of enlightement and republican values, is now ruled by an openly Islamic party. Is this the end of history? Far from it. It's just the beginning. Abbes introduces as series of reforms, which drastically change the face of France: he combats the atomisation of society by emphasizing the importance and strength of traditional, patriarchal family - now encouraged to be polygamous comprised of marriages based on reason, and often arranged on economic grounds. Women are not forbidden to study at universities or enter the workforce, but they are encouraged to learn housekeeping and stay at home in exchange for generous state support. Abbes advocates a third way between capitalism and communism, a sort of state capitalism based on distributism. aiming to strenghten small businesses; institutions of higher education - including the Sorbonne - are privatized with money flowing in from rich Gulf states, with only Muslims allowed as teachers. Catholics and even Jews are also allowed to have their own schools which offer religious teaching - because the enemy is neither religion or spirituality, but the precise lack of it: secularism and atheism, which Abbes and his followers blame for the destruction of European culture and European values, and for creating chaos and misery.
The new regime is not only not opposed; citizens embrace it, as it gives them order and meaning which they have so deeply lacked. Unemployment plummets, and so does crime; fellow Islamic parties are on the rise in Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and Britain. The European Union is expanding southwards and southeast - with Turkey to join imminently, followed by Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt, reaching across the sea further towards the Middle East. Through diplomacy alone and without shedding a drop of blood, Abbes is creating a new empire - uniting vastly different nations peacefully in a common political project, establishing withing a generation what has taken the ancient Romans centuries of conquest. This is not an empire built on suppression; societies are thriving, experiencing what is seen as a new Golden Age.
After the end of the Cold War and the collapse of Communism in eastern Europe, American political scientist Francis Fukuyama saw Western liberal democracy as the ultimate form of human government, with no possible alternative that could displace it. For Fukuyama, the end of the Cold War was also the end of history itself - the end of mankind's ideological evolution, with Western democracy being the pinnacle of human achievement, bound to eventually spread across the entire planet. For Fukuyama, the only threat to Western liberal democracy was radical Islam - but he saw radical Islamist ideology as unable to effectively control and govern a nation state, mostly because it is usually based on oppression of its own citizens and not attracting potential supporters. But the Islam in Submission is neither radical, nor oppressive; people are submitting to a soft theocracy out of their own volition, and vote Islamic politicians into office. They accept their reforms because they work, and bring them the results they want and desire. Here liberal democracy can be seen as not the greatest human achievement, but as the greatest tragedy - bringing about the freedom to pursuit happiness which never comes. Enlightenment is nothing but a collection of ideas which ultimately left us feeling empty and hollow. Human beings create civilizations because they need order, structure and meaning; Islam realizes the eternal dream of a good government.
In the vision of the future as realized in Submission a dystopia? Dystopias are based on submission based on force and terror, resulting in unhappiness or at best illusion of happiness, with protagonists usually rebelling against the new order at some point. I would argue that in Submission Houellebecq has created not a dystopia, but a genuine utopia - in which people live peacefully and are content, and whose rules they accept of their own free will. Their conversion is an act of hope - and a step towards a new and better society.
Submission is a very controversial, interesting and genuinely thought provoking book; in a stroke of deep and cruel irony it was published in France on the very day when armed Muslim fanatics killed 11 people at the headquarters of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The last issue before the attack had a cartoon of Houellebecq on the cover, Houellebecq - who has been taken to court for his criticism of Islam, which he called "the most stupid" of all monotheistic religions - is satirized as a seer, who predicts that in 2015 he'll loose his teeth, and in 2022 he'll observe Ramadan. Inshallah?
Sumisión (2015), de Houellebecq (1958-) me ha parecido una obra tan disparatada que casi roza en el ridículo. El empeño manifiesto del autor en continuar con su etiqueta de enfant terrible (loco o maldito) le obliga a polemizar y a desprestigiar a todo el mundo con tal ímpetu que, a mi entender, despoja a la novela de la verosimilitud que toda obra literaria debe poseer.
Lo único salvable es su correcta prosa, porque la distopía planteada en un futuro muy cercano (la islamización de Francia y, por ende, de todo occidente, debido, entiendo, a la debilidad y el fracaso de nuestra civilización) me ha parecido un despropósito, ya que los argumentos presentados están escorados siempre hacia la misma vertiente, obviando los argumentos contrarios y, sobre todo, las acciones de las personas que podían no estar de acuerdo con dicha islamización.
El personaje protagonista, tan rebuscado que no parece real, ha conseguido en principio sacarme de quicio para después simplemente aburrirme con su insistencia constante en la misoginia, la xenofobia, el racismo, la homofobia, el tratamiento de la mujer como objeto sexual, la cobardía generalizada, la vacua crítica de la intelectualidad, etc. El resultado se asemeja más una obra panfletaria que una novela.
Por otra parte, el exceso de intertextualidad, con gran cantidad de páginas que tratan sobre escritores naturalistas franceses (algunos realmente menores, salvo, supongo, para los especialistas del género) del siglo XIX y las continuas referencias y citas a sus obras ralentiza una novela que no sé muy bien cómo definir, pero que desde luego la pedantería estaría incluida entre sus características más principales. Además, una vez terminada su lectura, sigo sin encontrar la relación entre el naturalismo y la distopía presentada.
Y si hablamos del final, no deja de parecerme también impreciso y absurdo. No he encontrado una explicación convincente para ese cambio tan brusco del protagonista.
En resumen, una obra que a algunos lectores les pueda parecer original simplemente por la controversia que ha generado, pero que yo definiría igual que en ella se define Historia de O, "fantasías que me asqueaban y el conjunto era de un kitsch pomposo... todo eso era pura mierda", pero sin el elogio final, porque Sumisión no "está habitada por una pasión y un aliento que prevalecen".
Houellebecq și-a pus o întrebare încuietoare: Ce s-ar întîmpla dacă regimul din Arabia Saudită ar fi mutat, printr-un gest democratic (alegeri), în Franța? Răspunsul naratorului: Nu foarte multe. Bărbații ar putea avea cîte patru soții o dată și femeile ar trebui să poarte vălul islamic. Cel mai banal roman al lui Houellebecq. Ca de obicei, la pagina 101, prozatorul prezintă o mică prelegere despre felație. Mai mult n-are rost să scriu...
Ετούτη είναι η δεύτερη απόπειρα ανάγνωσης βιβλίου του Ουελμπέκ, καθότι η πρώτη αποδείχθηκε παταγώδης αποτυχία («Επέκταση του πεδίου της πάλης»). Αυτή τη φορά τα πράγματα είχαν πιο αίσια εξέλιξη και κατάληξη, αν και έχω επίγνωση ότι η «Υποταγή» δεν θεωρείται το κορυφαίο του έργο. Τούτου δοθέντος, ας προχωρήσω σε κάποιες απαραίτητες διευκρινίσεις προτού μπω στην ουσία.
Εδώ και κάμποσα χρόνια έχω σταματήσει να διαβάζω τα οπισθόφυλλα των βιβλίων που επιλέγω. Το περιεχόμενο ενός βιβλίου δεν με αφορά παρά ελάχιστα. Εκείνο που αποτελεί βασικό κριτήριο επιλογής είναι αποκλειστικά ο συγγραφέας, διότι πλέον έχω κατανοήσει ότι εφόσον είναι ικανός τεχνίτης το πλέον ασήμαντο θέμα θα αναδειχθεί σε μείζον. Αυτό που καλούμε «υπόθεση» είναι για μένα κάτι δευτερεύον, ένα όχημα στο οποίο επιβαίνει ο δημιουργός, μια αφορμή για να επιδείξει τη μοναδική, ολόδική του υπογραφή. Αν αυτή δεν υφίσταται, τότε όλο το οικοδόμημα είναι, σε γενικές γραμμές, αδιάφορο. Αναφέρομαι βεβαίως στην καθ’ εαυτή λογοτεχνία, όχι στα λεγόμενα genre για τα οποία ισχύουν διαφορετικοί κανόνες.
Και προς αποφυγή παρεξηγήσεων, όταν λέω ο «Συγγραφέας», δεν εννοώ το πρόσωπο, τον άνθρωπο, αλλά τον δημιουργό όπως αυτός μετουσιώνεται στο έργο του. Το οποίο με τη σειρά του σημαίνει ότι ο Ουελμπέκ, εν προκειμένω, δεν με αφορά ως οντότητα, δεν με αφορούν οι όποιες απόψεις του ή οι προθέσεις του, παρά μόνο το πώς αυτές αποτυπώνονται στο τελικό αποτέλεσμα, στο εκάστοτε βιβλίο του. Ακόμα περισσότερο δεν με αφορά η άποψη του κοινού, της εκάστοτε κοινότητας, των τιμητών ή των επικριτών – όταν ανοίξω το βιβλίο είμαι εγώ έναντι του συγγραφέα και όλα τα υπόλοιπα θεωρούνται απλές οχλήσεις και περισπασμοί. Βέβαια, η ολοσχερής απουσία ανάδρασης αποτελεί φενάκη, ενώ η εισβολή ιδεών, απόψεων και κρίσεων στην προσωπική σφαίρα ανάγνωσης είναι αναπόφευκτη. Αν και θα επιθυμούσα να μη γνωρίζω απολύτως τίποτα για τον συγγραφέα, θα ήταν εκ μέρους υποκριτικό να ισχυριστώ ότι ισχύει.
Μαθαίνω λοιπόν ότι αποτελεί α��φιλεγόμενο πρόσωπο, με μεγάλη μερίδα να τον κατηγορεί για μισογυνισμό, ακροδεξιές αντιλήψεις, μισανθρωπία κ.ο.κ. Αντιθέτως, η φίλια πλευρά εξαίρει τον αυθόρμητο, μη καθωσπρέπει, αυθεντικά καλλιτεχνικό, in your face τρόπο έκφρασής του. Φοβάμαι ότι τόσο η απόρριψη όσο και η αποδοχή είναι ετεροκαθορισμός (αφού τον μισούν οι απέναντι, εμείς τον αγαπάμε) κάτι που δεν μου ταιριάζει σε αυτή τη φάση της ωριμότητας, ενώ, το σημαντικότερο, βασίζεται σε εξωκαλλιτεχνικά κριτήρια. Για μένα, η κρίση είναι: καλός συγγραφέας, κακός συγγραφέας ή κάτι ενδιάμεσο βεβαίως. Τα λοιπά τα αντιπαρέρχομαι.
Πάμε τώρα στη ουσία: Ο Ουελμπέκ είναι ένας μέτριος, όμως όχι κακός, συγγραφέας. Όχι βέβαια γι’ αυτά που λέει, αλλά για το πώς τα λέει. Αν υπάρχει κάποια πρόκληση στο κείμενό του, με αφήνει παντελώς αδιάφορο ως τέτοια. Με αφορά όμως άμεσα το πώς τη χρησιμοποιεί ενδοκειμενικά. Προσοχή: Όχι κατά πόσον οι όποιες εκπεφρασμένες απόψεις είναι σωστές ή λάθος, απεχθείς ή συμπαθείς, αλλά κατά πόσον αποδίδονται με τέτοιο τρόπο ώστε να στηρίζουν το όλο οικοδόμημα, να αιτιολογούνται εσωτερικά, να συνυφαίνονται αρμονικά με τα υπόλοιπα μορφολογικά στοιχεία, ώστε η συνολική άρθρωση του έργου να είναι ισορροπημένη.
Καίτοι δεν διέκρινα δομικά προβλήματα ανισορροπίας (το βιβλίο είχε την κατάλληλη έκταση και μάλιστα είχε πολύ καλό τέλος – αυτό ήταν και το κορυφαίο του επίτευγμα), εντούτοις η αφηγηματική προσέγγιση, κατά την άποψή μου πάντα, υπήρξε συχνά απλοϊκή σε επίπεδο καταγραφής/ υλοποίησης των θεματικών του, κάτι που εξέλαβα ως ρηχότητα. Από την άλλη, πέρασα ευχάριστα διαβάζοντάς το και μόνο το γεγονός ότι δεν το παράτησα, αλλά προχωρούσα με ενδιαφέρον να δω πού θα καταλήξει, σίγουρα σημαίνει κάτι. Βέβαια, ήδη από τη μέση και κάτω είχε εξαντλήσει ό,τι είχε να προσφέρει υφολογικά. Η απόλαυση της ανάγνωσης καθ’ εαυτήν υποχώρησε και έμεινε απλά η περιέργεια της κατάληξης.
Το κεντρικό θέμα της «Υποταγής» είναι η σταδιακή ανάληψη της εξουσίας στη Γαλλία από τους Μουσουλμάνους, μέσω εκλογών προφανώς, έτσι όπως τη βιώνει ο πρωταγωνιστής της, ένας πανεπιστημιακός καθηγητής. Ουσιαστικά πρόκειται για τη βαθμιαία μεταστροφή του ιδίου και της γαλλικής κοινωνίας στην αποδοχή του νέου καθεστώτος, με ό,τι αυτό συνεπάγεται όσον αφορά την αλλοίωση των θεσμών και του δυτικού modus vivendi ως πολιτιστικής δεσπόζουσας. Δεν γνωρίζω πόσο ρεαλιστικό ή εφικτό είναι το σενάριο αυτό, δεν κατέχω τον συσχετισμό δυνάμεων και ούτε με ενδιαφέρει και ιδιαίτερα, όπως προείπα. Δεν διαβάζω ιστορικό ή δημοσιογραφικό κείμενο για να επιζητώ αντικειμενικότητα, αλλά έργο μυθοπλασίας, τουτέστιν μια φανταστική κατασκευή και ως τέτοια το κρίνω (καίτοι ομολογώ εδώ τη βαθύτατη απέχθεια που έχω απέναντι στο Ισλάμ).
Το βιβλίο σε σημεία με παρέπεμψε στον μέγα Φ. Ροθ (βλ. «Συνωμοσία ενάντια στην Αμερική»), αλλά χωρίς βέβαια το βάθος και τη συγγραφική ωριμότητα του τελευταίου. Συχνότερα όμως, ιδίως όταν αποφάσιζε να γράψει περί σεξουαλικότητας, μου έφερνε στο μυαλό τον Μπουκόφσκι: εφηβική προσέγγιση του θέματος, κάτι που με έκανε να χαμογελώ με κατανόηση, αντί βέβαια να εξεγείρομαι για τον όποιο μισογυνισμό του. Αν τα εκφραστικά σου μέσα είναι κοινότοπα, τότε και η αιχμή του θέματός σου θα είναι και εκείνη στομωμένη. Η σεξουαλική πρόκληση όταν εκφέρεται με παρωχημένο τρόπο προκαλεί περισσότερο χασμουρητό ή μειδίαμα παρά οργή και αγανάκτηση. Θεωρώ ότι το εξής έχει ισχύ νόμου: στη λογοτεχνία δεν υπάρχουν ακραία θέματα, μόνο «ακραίοι» συγγραφείς (ο Κάφκα στη «Μεταμόρφωση» προσέβαλε κυριολεκτικά την αντίληψή μας για τον κόσμο δίχως μία προκλητική λέξη).
Μακρηγορώ όμως, οπότε καταλήγω. Δεν γνωρίζω πώς δίνονται τα βραβεία, ποιοι τα δίνουν κ.ο.κ. και δεν με ενδιαφέρει πλέον. Δεν παρακολουθώ ιδιαίτερα τη σύγχρονη λογοτεχνία για να έχω κι άποψη, είναι η αλήθεια. Γνωρίζω ότι δεν έχει νόημα να συγκρίνω τον Ουελμπέκ με τους αγαπημένους μου Γάλλους συγγραφείς (Φλωμπέρ, Στεντάλ, Μπαλζάκ, Ζολά και βέβαια Προυστ), καθότι θα κριθώ ως ανιστόρητος και ελιτιστής. Εντούτοις, δεν έχω κι άλλο μέτρο σύγκρισης, φοβάμαι, ακριβώς λόγω της άγνοιας που προανέφερα. Τέτοιες οι παραστάσεις μου, αυτές και οι κρίσεις μου.
Ίσως οι συνοδοιπόροι αναγνώστες που γνωρίζουν τα τεκταινόμενα της τρέχουσας εκδοτικής παραγωγής διαθέτουν σφαιρικότερη άποψη και άρα αντικειμενικότερη κρίση. Και ίσως όσοι αναγορεύουν τον Ουελμπέκ σε κορυφαία ή ό,τι φωνή της σύγχρονης λογοτεχνίας να έχουν δίκιο. Το δέχομαι, συγκατανεύω με σεβασμό (δεν είμαι ανταγωνιστικός, δεν με ενδιέφερε ποτέ να έχω δίκιο!) και συνεχίζω τον μοναχικό δρόμο μου.
French: Soumission/ English: Submission Yup, that's the infamous novel that was the cover story of Charlie Hebdo when the massacre happened in which 12 people died, among them Bernard Maris, a good friend of Houellebecq. The story is set in 2022, when an Islamic party is voted into power in France. Our narrator François (the most French name ever) is a professor of literature at the prestigious Sorbonne and at the crossroads of his life: At 43, it is questionable how long his lifestyle of having a string of affairs with students will still be supportable. When the university is getting under the financial control of Saudi Arabia and he is dismissed with a full pension, thus losing his academic objectives and easy contact to young women, he wonders what to do next. Will he convert to Islam in oder to get his job back and to be able to marry multiple wives? More than anything, this is a book about values and opportunism, and it is not focussing on the uneduacted, on people with few prospects who struggle to get by, but on wealthy intellectuals who are in no way forced to compromise ideals they have been defending when it still served them. The only question is whether they obliterate their former convictions for personal gain or to fight their inner emptiness, and the answer is probably: both.
Houellebecq is not portraying his literary vision as a dystopia (or a utopia for that matter) - this is debate literature, creating a scenario in order to offer points of discussion, and as such, it is highly fascinating and effective. François, at the beginning an apolitical introvert, is a specialist on Joris-Karl Huysmans, an author who was first considered part of the decadent movement (most famously with Against Nature) before turning to Catholicism (The Cathedral etc.). Fun fact: The Sorbonne was a haven of Catholic power politics up until the 18th century. François mirrors his own intellectual journey in that of Huysmans, thus also contrasting the earlier rise of European Christiany with the rise of Islam he is witnessing in France. It is certainly interesting to also read Huysmans in contrast to Houellebecq, but hey, boys and girls: The protagonist of this book is not Houellebecq. I know that the content of the book is easier to stomach (and also to dismiss) when the reader just proceeds to project the author upon its characters (and then to call him a sexist or what not), but that's just lazy and cheap. Don't do it.
"Submission" is an ironic parable about shameless opportunism, the longing for a clear order in the name of a higher and thus undebatable power, and about how thin the layer of civilization actually is. In no way does the book argue that Islam is better or worse than Christianity; rather, one characters explains that after Christianity failed to defeat European political power, a new religion is now making a second attempt - clearly not a moral distinction. François is a challenging character, an influential professor for a subject that is proven to enhance empathy, a guy who ponders issues on 35364 meta-levels, but ultimately volatile and with no real convictions, prone to reproducing stereotypes and covering it up by quoting Schopenhauer et al. As he feels rejected by women, he declares them to be commodities - Houellebecq is also the author who wrote about the dangers of incels before the word even existed.
It's easy to submit to what is declared to be unavoidable, especially when it's an excuse to gain advantages and when it fulfills spiritual needs. It's this disparity between selfishness and alienation that makes this book so fascinating. Some reviewers also read the text as a discussion of the French collaboration with the Nazis - certainly an interesting angle. I can't wait to read what Houellebecq will write next.
Εκδόθηκε στις 7 Ιανουαρίου 2015 και την ίδια μέρα το σατιρικό περιοδικό Charlie Hebdo έκδωσε το τεύχος με την καρικατούρα του Ουελμπέκ ως μάγου να λέει ότι το 2022 θα γιορτάζει το Ραμαζάνι.
Την ίδια επίσης μέρα τα γραφεία της Charlie Hebdo δέκτηκαν επίθεση με αποτέλεσμα να πεθάνουν 12 άνθρωποι.
Τον Οκτώβρη του 2015 βγήκε και η ελληνική έκδοση, και λίγες εβδομάδες μετά έγιναν οι πολύνεκρες επιθέσεις στο Παρισι (Σταντ ντε Φρανς, Μπατακλάν κλπ)
Ο Ουελμπέκ έγραψε ένα βιβλίο που περιέχει εξτρεμιστικές πράξεις στο Παρίσι, το οποίο μόλις εκδίδεται εξτρεμιστικές πράξεις λαμβάνουν χώρα στο Παρίσι. Ζωή και τέχνη γίνονται ένα. Σατανικές συμπτώσεις ή μήπως ο Ουελμπέκ είναι τόσο προφητικά έξυπνος που ξέρει πότε κάτι θα πουλήσει / προκαλέσει;
Το βιβλίο είναι σχετικά απλό. Σε μια Γαλλία του κοντινού μέλλοντος (2022) διεξάγονται εκλογές με την ακροδεξιά της Λεπέν στο προβάδισμα. Ακριβώς πίσω είναι η μουσουλμανική αδελφότητα η οποία με τη βοήθεια του 3ου κόμματος βγαίνει στην εξουσία.
Τώρα όλη η Γαλλία είναι υπό μουσουλμανικό καθεστώς.
Είναι καλό αυτό; Είναι, διότι η κυβέρνηση σε 6 μήνες μείωσε την ανεργία σε ένα μεγάλο ποσοστό. Πώς; Βγάζοντας όλες τις γυναίκες από τις δουλείες τους για να μπουν πίσω από τον πάγκο της κουζίνας αλλά με επίδομα νοικοκυράς και δίνοντας τις θέσεις τους σε (άντρες) άνεργους. Τώρα αυτό είναι καλό; Αν ρωτήσετε τη μάνα μου και διάφορες θείες μου θα προτιμούσαν να είναι δούλες στο σπίτι, παρά δούλες και στη δουλειά και στο σπίτι. Αλλά και πάλι το να χάνεις τη δουλειά σου χωρίς τη θέλησή σου είναι καλό;
Τέλος πάντων, αυτό και άλλα πολλά ερωτήματα αναδύθηκαν από μέσα μου καθώς διάβαζα το βιβλίο.
Ο πρωταγωνιστής του βιβλίου είναι ένας καθηγητής στη Σορβόνη με ειδικότητα στον Ουισμάνς. Ασυμπάθιστος χαραχτήρας. Μισογύνης, μισάνθρωπος, και όλα τα εις μισό-. Για να παραμείνει καθηγητής στο πανεπιστήμιο πρέπει να ασπαστεί το Ισλάμ.
Όλο το βιβλίο είναι μια εναλλαγή μεταξύ Ουισμάνς, πολιτική, πήδουλους, θρησκεία - Ουισμάνς, πολιτική, πήδουλους, θρησκεία. Και όλα σε μεγάλη λεπτομέρεια. Ένα βιβλίο όπου παρελαύνουν πολιτικοί της Γαλλίας (Ολάντ, Σαρκοζί, Λεπέν) κυρίως στο πρώτο μισό στη διάρκεια της προεκλογικής περιόδου.
Το απόλαυσα ως βιβλίο αλλά δεν με έπεισε. Μπορεί το μουσουλμανικό κόμμα να ήταν σαφώς καλύτερο από το να κέρδιζε το Front National της φασίστως Λεπέν αλλά το ότι μέσα σε 6 μήνες όλη η Γαλλία μπήκε σε νόμο σαρία (γυναίκες καλυμμένες, καθηγητές μουσουλμάνοι, γάμοι με προξενιά κλπ) αδιαμαρτήρητα έμοιαζε κάπως ψεύτικο και βεβιασμένο το οποίο, καταλαβαίνω, ήταν ένας τρόπος για να κυλίσει η ιστορία.
Παρόλο που από Γαλλική Λογοτεχνία κάνω μεσάνυχτα. (είμαι βλέπετε της αντίπερα όχθης God Save the Queen) δεν με κούρασαν οι αμέτρητες παραπομπές στη Γαλλική Λογοτεχνία του 19ου αιώνα (Ουισμάνς, Πεγκύ (Για αρκετές σελίδες διάβαζα Πέγκυ) Ντομινίκ Ορί, Φλωμπέρ κλπ)
Απ' ότι φαίνεται όμως θα συνεχίσω με Ουελμπέκ στο μέλλον, ίσως με το δοκίμιο για τον μαέστρο του τρόμου αλλά απίστευτα ρατσιστή Λαβκραφτ του οποίου οι απόψεις σίγουρα θα βρίσκουν σύμφωνη τη Λεπέν.
Il libro, ambientato nella Francia dei nostri tempi, descrive l’ipotesi della vittoria alle elezioni di un partito chiamato “Fratelli musulmani” e la conseguente islamizzazione della Francia stessa in seguito al progressivo decadimento morale e degrado dei valori di riferimento occidentali.
“Mi rendevo tuttavia conto, e ormai da anni, che lo scarto crescente, divenuto abissale, tra la popolazione e chi parlava in suo nome, politici e giornalisti, era destinato a portare a qualcosa di caotico, violento e imprevedibile.”
Sottomissione è un libro provocatorio. Il personaggio principale, un professore universitario quarantenne soprattutto ossessionato dalle studentesse e alle prostitute, è l’emblema di tale degrado. È un libro esagerato, Sottomissione. Un libro che descrive situazioni estreme, che ovviamente ci provocano sconcerto, irritazione e disgusto. Tutto nel romanzo è messo in discussione: il matrimonio, la famiglia, le tradizioni, i ruoli dell’uomo e soprattutto della donna nella società e nella famiglia. Ed è accuratamente descritto un futuro avvilente in cui l’uomo per sopravvivere si deve sottomettere alla religione in generale e alla tradizione islamica in particolare.
“È la sottomissione. L’idea sconvolgente e semplice che il culmine della felicità umana consista nella sottomissione più assoluta”
Il libro, che si legge facilmente a parte lo sviluppo centrale che ho ritenuto abbastanza noioso, è veramente indisponente e proprio per questo stimola il ragionamento e pone parecchie domande. Un autore che riesce a essere così prepotentemente provocatorio ed irritante non può essere né banale né stupido.
Why do I always have to think of an iceberg when reading Houellebecq? It is that icy tone of voice in his writing while you sense that there is a vast amount of nasty coldness that stays hidden underneath. His dislike of women and, really, his disgust for mankind is always evident. I do admire though how he evokes in this novel a world that could be entirely possible. One could fit perfectly in this new world order if you do not care about your principles in any strong way. Francois, the protagonist, unemployed academic and painfully lonely, is willing to do anything to feel less wretched. The solution offered by the Islamic Sorbonne is an option solely open to the male part of society. Typically, there is no mercy for us, females. Reading Houellebecq is always interesting. Whether it is pleasant is another thing.
Ladies and gentlemen, I ask forgiveness for taking so long to write a new criticism, for the users of Goodreads. I had promised my friend Sergio Araújo Cruz, who would read your wonderful book of "the legend of the broken sword" https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4... & from_search = true , which God willing will be following criticism that type to Goodreads. The next week will be very busy reading "code Da Vinci" Dan Brown https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9... & from_search = true , and it is likely to write a critique that infuriate and provoke rejection by many people, so I take advantage of the few days of bonanza, which I have left. Anyway, I'm very happy, and very happy at Goodreads, which is my second home in a virtual world clear this. It is the paradise of the bibliophile. But let's stop to praise, and such gloomy thoughts, to talk about this very interesting novel of Houellebecq. It is a subject that interested me, so and I believe, that I am going to rain the contempt to say, and will accuse me of being a propagator of hatred. In the modern world in which we live the Jeremiah, and the Cassandras are not welcome. But what describes Michel Houllebecq in his novel will most likely be what will happen to Europe. Perhaps, if they continue with their policies, countries such as Hungary and Poland can survive a little more. But I see a very black future for Western Europe, whose intelligentsia has done everything humanly possible to destroy it, while in Eastern Europe it was struggling against a dictatorship of truth, which reaffirmed the identity of these countries. To be honest did not expect, that "submission" me gfuera to like so much. Houellebecq had indeed a reputation for freaky, and although don't look much at that. Because I prefer to judge books by myself, and not by criticism from Goodreads, tell them although affect me something. I must admit I have been delighted with the end result of 'submission ". Houellebecq writes beautifully, or is very well translated into Spanish, which all can be. It is novel tells how a Muslim party comes to power, and leads to France to islam. This is the main plot, but not the only one. Because this novel, which is read in a sigh, and leaves a deep sediment in the soul that reads it. Part of the arrival in power of a Muslim party it talks about other things. I as you know I am a collector of Catholic writers, and for me was a subject of very great pleasure, that the author decided that the protagonist of his novel François was a specialist in the French naturalist writer Joris Karl Huysmans https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... since then that subplot is a success. First Houellebecq choose expedited Joris Karl Huysmans to lead the first part of his work. Then through the thesis of François analyzes all the work, and the conversion of the own Huysmans, also compared with their contemporaries Barbey D'Aurevilly (who already prophesied the religious conversion of the own Huysmans, and nailed) https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... Emile Zola, who is one of the postulators of naturalism, but was mobbed an atheist but most interesting has been the approach of the author Leon Bloy https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... (here I must say, that one of the things, which I liked, or better with which I disagree. It is precisely with the constant criticisms that Houellebecq/François released Bloy. Which they accuse of resentful, envious, and be very cruel. It is possible that these defective, but I do believe, that he is a good writer.) I make a point, I don't know if you know it, but there was great enmity between Bloy, and Huysmans. The first accused the second steal a work (I think it was "Oblate"), and from that moment it broke. Bloy satirized Huysmans with Folantin character in "Poor woman" https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... (with all Bloy to part of its fight against poverty has a very nice story that would be his spouse Anna Mosebach. Before she fell in love of a prostitute as the Prophet Hosea, but that story ended badly. On the other hand, your relationship with your spouse is one of the most beautiful that has occurred. Bloy, as Papini is all fire and passion, and was a great friend of Barbey D, d ' Aurevilly, who was his teacher, and of my admired Paul Féval, that despite its economic problems always helped Bloy, and this has always been her faithful https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... ) also speaks of other writers, who like me as Paul Claudel (which I love) https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... (I suppose that artists will meet Claudel, because he was the brother of Camille Claudel, who had a destructive affair with Rodin. Claudel was one of the few who did not abandon her when she was interned in a mental hospital). Speaks less of Bernanos, and does it well (hence agree with Houellebecq. It is not a writer, who like me much). The own Houellebecq becomes classified as a Catholic writer left-wing. It is a shame to not having the illustrious judgement of Houellebecq, here is a very popular writer. I think, that very overrated, but has been highly supported by the Bishop of Granada, who is making a very positive and excellent editorial work. Not only favoring the creation of a publishing house called new home, but I also know that he has translated it personally to the Spanish. Anyway, Bernanos has for me a problem very seriously is a person, who based everything on human rights, and democracy rather than in the Catholic religion already other Catholic writers, but the Christian Democrats, afearon it is and other Catholic groups preferred to opt for Bernanos rather than by other most interesting Catholic writers, and appropriate. In this battle, I'm more with Houellebecq, than with the fans of Bernanos https://www.goodreads.com/author/show.... Anyway the most beautiful moments of the novel are taking place, when it is quoted as a writer, that I look forward to read Charles Péguy. There is a moment in which the old interior agentede Tanner recites a poem his precious, and then one of the most beautiful moments of the book. Not going to reveal it will have to find users of Goodreads, who read the novel for themselves. I would have liked that Houellebecq had spoken of other French Catholic writers such as Paul Bourget (who also had problems with Bloy, and that satirizó on the character of Alexis Dumarel) https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... . However, it is the shadow of Huysmans which plans throughout the novel, despite the atheism of Francois, who is a clear child of may 68. Movement which rightly attacked Houellebecq throughout the novel. In fact, despite your irregular life style is François imitate its biografiado, and the author of which makes the thesis. I believe that with this subplot Houellebecq is explaining something, rather than have opted for the ideologists of may 68 in particular Houellebecq appointment to Sartre, and by Lempereur (specialist in Bloy) shaking him mercilessly very deservedly. I agree with this attack, as Sartre for me responsible for the European decline. First while his colleagues including Camus (which also gets Houellebecq) were persecuted by the Nazis. Sartre could brand new works without problem. Came to this (unfortunately wasn't it Bill) which had never been freer with Vichy. Support for the genocidal Stalin, and encouraging destructive policies, which have led Europe to its decline. A part to his fondness for amphetamines, and something immoral mu having sex with his students. So, I pained much, that give highest grades to a man, who in my opinion it deserves is the ostraca is forgotten. Part of that Paul Johnson in his "Intellectual" book (for me of required reading) https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5... says brightly, that "the new Voltaire" as De Gaulle dubbed it. Could have provided the ideological material allowing Pol Pot to perpetrate one of the most inhuman genocides of the 20th century in Cambodia. It says nothing of his mistress (with that as an enemy of the traditional family did not marry detail). But, I will tell of Simone de Beauvoir, but that has been one of the worst in the history of Western. Venal and vicious as a Messalina, who had relations with minors, and persons of both sexes. Among her lovers was the author of the "man with the golden arm", than that for his novel became famous for making him a cunilinguis (if there are no more comments). That woman is responsible for having advocated a sterile struggle of sexes, which has led to the West on the verge of extinction. As her lover, he also supported more bloodthirsty dictators of Earth (including Mao). Turning to the other plot. It is not new, what tells Houellebecq, already that eternally optimistic Prophet, but never adanist the big Chesty treatment already in his novel "The flying Inn" https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... . What initially was a criticism against the consumption of alcoholic beverages at the end becomes a satire against progressivism and a warning of what will happen to the West. In fact, the novel talks about that with the help of a politician Lord Ivywood, and feminist groups islam will be with power in England. It is very interesting the dialogue, maintained by Patrick Dalroy and Dorian Wimpole, when it was not clear the failure of colonialism, and was at its peak. Chesty already predicted the failure of imperialism, and that Europe would be Islamized. Another novel, already predicting this future is the very interesting writer (who deserves to be remembered for something else, that for having written "The orange clockworth") is the interesting sequel, wrote Anthony Burgess of the homonymous work "1985", already in "The seed of desire" https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8... speak of a society that promotes homosexuality, and prohibited marriage and heterosexual relationships. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5... 1985 It continued the story of the big brother and spoke of a future (era when it ruled the Callaghan labour) in trade unions and islam all would rule it. Some have pointed out, that it is more terrifying than the work of Orwell. Jean Raspail is as well, but I'm not going to recommend. Joseph Pearce called it the ugly in his wonderful book, which speaks of his conversion. "My race with the devil" https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... . We also have sharp reflections of Oriana Fallaci https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... parties are well characterized. One thing I agree with Houellebecq, and it is that as I agree that vote to the far right is not the solution, but what spoke the friend of Juan Manuel de Prada, Enrique Álvarez https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3...https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... this only can be reversed, being Christian, and returning to the roots, but I think, that it is late. As Colonel Gaddafi said that Islam would reach Europe thanks to the wombs of Muslim women. Everything fits with say, that the policies of Ben Abbess Muslim leader which, thanks to the support of socialism, and the right to power defeating the party of Lepen, which policies carried out are very good. Opt for opening the European union to Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, and Lebanon. Follows policies of g. k. Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc distributistas https://www.goodreads.com/author/show...https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... I wonder, before reaching this dismal outcome, why not implement these measures before, and send to the Club the petty interests of right and left. Because I think, that this is a society, with its demographic emptiness is committing suicide, but anyway I'm asking for sanity in an insane asylum. The theme of the decline raises it Rediger, making functions of Inoue, and Ferreira "Silence" https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... Shusaku endo. Here, it is not used torture, but promises and rewards. A world more based on the senses, and pleasures. It is quite clear according to Nietzsche (François called the old c... In fact, Rediger makes a thesis on the influence of Niessztche in Guenon. With respect to Niesztche I always thought, that despite being a great man is a man who reminds me of Don Carlos "Last Crusader" Louis de Wohl https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7... . He's crazy. In addition, they make that kind of men who speak both of the force, because they are very weak. Already Dostoyevsky predicted it with Iván Karamazov in "The Brothers Karamazov" https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4... the fate of these men is or madness, as it happened to Niesztche or suicide, as happened to Lycurgus, and one of the opponents of Socrates I refer to Protagoras) that the Christianity is a religion of women, and islam's men. I initially seeing how is feminism in the West that what says Houellebecq is impossible, but as feminism is a tool of the left, and it will support these options. It would not surprise me, that here was the same, as in the Iran of Khomeini. I unlike Houellebecq believe that change will not be as smooth and peaceful. At the beginning, but then it will impose islam their religion to Europe. Conversion will not fix anything, because if there is a very given to civil wars society is the Islamic. However I will point, despite my natural pessimism a note of hope in his novel "The Syrian Pope" Jesús Sánchez Adalid speaks of a prophecy pseudo-Methodius, whereby Islam will return again to dominate the world, but will last little, then come the Antichrist https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3... another theme is the theme of Judaism this is collected in the history of the lover of the protagonist, Myriam, who is Jewish, and emigrated. So despite relations between Ben Abess and the Rabbi of France. Jews are one of the biggest losers of the arrival of Ben Abess. Such as defects, may it displease my friends, that the novel is very green. There are lots of sex. François uses porn, and lie with her lovers, and Escorts. In fact, the topic of sex, and the love will have much to do in the decision of the protagonist. Also would have been more interesting to put fictitious, and not actual politicians, and another defect is that the author to focus on François does not clarify whether there will be civil war in France, or not. With a great book, I hope that my criticism will help them learn. (The review follows in spanish).
Submissão é um livro que pode ser mau ou bom, triste ou divertido. Depende de quem o lê; ou de como o lê; ou de como o quer ler; ou se lê mais, ou lê menos do que aquilo que está escrito. Lê-se bem e depressa; a escrita é simples e as letras são gordas. A única estrela com que o avalio não reflete desprazer pela prosa, ou pela forma como o romance está estruturado, no entanto, o conteúdo...(nas pesquisas que fiz sobre Michel Houellebecq li que, quando da publicação do seu livro O Mapa e o Território, foi acusado de plagiar a Wikipedia...isto não interessa, mas interessa). Se o narrador, e personagem principal, não fosse tão misógeno, talvez eu conseguisse olhar para este livro com alguma seriedade e não apenas como uma patética apologia da submissão feminina, em que a política, a religião e a literatura são apenas frágeis adereços.
Michel Houellebecq, ou a entrada no túnel
François é um professor de literatura que, aos vinte anos, fez uma tese de doutoramento sobre o escritor Joris-Karl Huysmans, que ainda lê (e pouco mais) aos quarenta e tal. Já não se entesa como aos vinte anos, e as suas "erecções, agora mais raras e aleatórias, pediam corpos firmes, suaves e sem defeito". Este não é um problema que careça de difícil resolução porque, no início de cada ano lectivo, surge uma revoada de meninas ansiosas por serem fodidas pelo sedutor cota. Há um diálogo supimpas, entre François e uma das namoradas, em que o pobre homem se revela preocupado com a ideia de ser machista porque tem dúvidas sobre se é boa ideia as mulheres fazerem as mesmas coisas que os homens, tais como votarem, estudarem, trabalharem. Ela sossega-o dizendo que ele não pode ser machista porque lê Mallarmé e Huysmans. Depois de apresentada a personagem vem o enquadramento político: Ano de 2012, Paris e a crise económica, a insatisfação da população, a indiferença com a política (e todas essas coisas que vêm nos jornais...). Neste contexto, surge como candidato à governação o partido da Fraternidade Muçulmana, que defende um Islamismo moderado. François é despedido e, receando os conflitos que eclodiram nas ruas, decide passar uns dias no campo. Lê Huysmans (outra vez), visita o local de culto da virgem de Rocamadour (faz mais umas coisas, mas não posso contar tudo) e, quando dias depois regressa a Paris, talvez por milagre da santa, encontra o paraíso: a paz instalou-se, o desemprego diminuiu, a economia está em recuperação. As mulheres estão felizes nas suas burcas esvoaçantes, nas suas cozinhas e na cama do marido (algumas têm 15 anos e o esposo a idade do avô, mas isso é irrelevante pois ele é rico e elas dividem-no com mais duas ou três mulheres). É proposto a François uma readmissão na Universidade, na condição de se converter ao islamismo. Será que, à semelhança de Huysmans - que se converteu do Satanismo para o Catolicismo - também François abandona o Ateísmo e abraça o Islamismo? Antes de terminar, não posso deixar de referir duas belas “pérolas” que aumentarem as minhas dúvidas sobre se Houellebecq será um génio ou apenas um tipo esperto; se criou uma alegoria para criticar a sociedade e certos ideiais discriminatórios, ou se crê mesmo no que diz…com base no que li sobre ele, inclino-me mais para o esperto… 1. Enquanto decidia se comia galinha ou enguias, François "de súbito teve a certeza de que compreendia perfeitamente Huysmans, melhor do que ele se compreendera a si próprio": baseado na leitura de Là-Bas e numas almoçaradas que por lá se descrevem, conclui que a verdadeira felicidade para Huysmans era...COMER! 2. A referência, por um muçulmano, ao livro de Pauline Réage, A História de O, (que li e, na minha opinião, é uma espécie de Sombras de Grey para adultos) como modelo ilustrativo da plenitude da felicidade humana, representada pela submissão absoluta; da mulher ao homem e do homem a Deus.
Depois de ler tantas opiniões positivas, de pessoas que considero e respeito, fiquei num dilema: se deveria arrumar o livro nos lidos, sem estrelas nem letras, ou se escreveria o que penso sobre ele. Depois de muito pensar decidi-me pela segunda hipótese consciente, tal como François, de que "Não teria nada de que me arrepender"...
On the basis of a summary I expected this novel to present a strong criticism of Muslim fundamentalism. But clearly that didn’t take into account the irony and sarcasm of Houellebecq. The beginning of this book reintroduces the reader to his typical universe: the perspective of the story telling protagonist, the 44-year-old professor of literature François, is once again one of world-weary nihilism, or as he puts it himself, he is “beyond his intellectual and amorous peak”, lonely, anti-social, and sexist. Only his fascination for the French 19th century writer Joris-Karl Huysmans is intriguing, because at first it is difficult to place.
But as you follow Francois' antipathetic existence and amoral view of the world, you notice first subtle and later much more explicit references to an impending political landslide, in which a Muslim Brotherhood candidate kicks off as President of France, apparently in the year 2022. Houellebecq pays quite a bit of attention to the scheming behind this: the role of the extreme right-wing identitarians, the opportunism of the left and center parties and the tactical ingenuity of the Muslim leader. The story goes up and down a bit, with some not so credible twists and turns, such as a top secret service executive who explains to François in detail what goes on behind the scenes. In between, the protagonist continues to chew on Huysmans and his unexpected conversion to Catholicism, and is indulging in unsatisfying sexual adventures and misogynist comments on women. Once the Muslims are in power, the regime change turns out to be better than expected, at least for those who are men (some very sarcastic chapters on this topic). François is subtly invited to become part of the new establishment. This is accompanied by his observation of collaborating French intellectuals and politicians, who suddenly take in a few, sometimes very young, wifes. Our main character then has little difficulty in making the decision himself, “Je n'aurai rien à regretter” (I will have nothing to regret).
As mentioned, it is not so much Islam or the danger of Muslim fundamentalism that is in the spotlight in this book, although the small changes that are happening are pretty horrifying. But it is rather the opportunism of the French intellectuals, politicians (mentioned by name) and the media that is clearly criticized. Without much scruple, they all conform to the new regime in exchange for money and power. But also intellectual anaemia and culturally stimulated compliance are decisive elements. So, once again Houellebecq exposes the hopeless mess and weakness of late capitalist Western society. And in that sense this novel certainly is a success, for me on the same level as "Les particules élémentaires". But story-wise, this book clearly isn’t convincing: there are very incredible twists and turns, and sometimes the story turns into nagging tracts. The role of the Huysmans element also ultimately remains rather unsatisfactory. Houellebecq's ironic venom continues to challenge and provoke, but it is always revolving within the same culture-pessimistic circle. (read in French, rating 2.5 stars)
Στη Γαλλία του πολύ κοντινού μέλλοντος, την εξουσία καταλαμβάνει μέσω της δημοκρατικής οδού των εθνικών εκλογών το μουσουλμανικό κόμμα, το οποίο στο δεύτερο γύρο έχει να αντιμετωπίσει την ακροδεξιά. Κεντροδεξιοί και σοσιαλιστές βρίσκονται μεταξύ δύο ακραίων κομμάτων τα οποία βάλλουν ευθέως, από διαφορετική αφετηρία αλλά με την ίδια ένταση, κατά των θ��μελιωδών αρχών και κατακτήσεων του δυτικού πολιτισμού και επιλέγουν να συνεργαστούν με ό,τι θεωρούν ως το μικρότερο μεταξύ δύο (εκ πρώτης όψεως το ίδιο) κακών.
Αρχικά ήμουν λίγο διστακτική με το βιβλίο και, για να είμαι ειλικρινής, οι πρώτες 60 περίπου σελίδες δεν μου πολυάρεσαν. Αντιπαθητικοί ή και αδιάφοροι χαρακτήρες, υφέρπων μισογυνισμός και μια ελαφρώς βαρετή για τα γούστα μου ενασχόληση με τη ζωή και το έργο του Ουισμάν, που δεν τον είχα ξανακούσει αλλά δεν μου δημιουργήθηκε και κάποιο ιδιαίτερο ενδιαφέρον να τον γνωρίσω προχωρώντας την αφήγη��η. Επίσης δεν εμβαθύνει αρκετά στον κεντρικό του ήρωα. Στα μισά περίπου άρχισε να αποκτά περισσότερο ενδιαφέρον, με την παρουσίαση των μέσων που μετέρχεται το νέο καθεστώς ώστε να οδηγήσει στην ανάδυση μιας νέας αυτοκρατορίας της υποταγής, μιας μουσουλμανικής νέας τάξης και στην οριστική εκρίζωση της δυτικής κουλτούρας και της θεωρητικής θεμελίωσης αυτής της ιστορικής και κοινωνικής εξέλιξης. Διότι μία επιβολή του νέου προτύπου ζωής με τη βία δεν αρκεί, θα πρέπει οι νέες δομές να εμπεδωθούν μέσω μιας πειστικής (έστω εκ πρώτης όψεως) επιχειρηματολογίας, μιας επιτυχημένης προπαγάνδας η οποία θα αποτελέσει τη βάση της νέας μουσουλμανικής παιδείας. Και γι' αυτό το πρώτο πράγμα που απασχολεί τη νέα κυβέρνηση είναι να αποκτήσει τον έλεγχο των σχολείων και της πανεπιστημιακής κοινότητας.
Πώς όμως θα πειστούν οι πανεπιστημιακοί να απαρνηθούν τις αξίες του ορθολογισμού και της ατομικής ελευθερίας και να συμμετάσχουν στη διαμόρφωση των νέων συνειδήσεων; Πώς θα ασπαστούν οικειοθελώς τον μουσουλμανισμό και θα διδάξουν τις αρχές της παραδοσιακής οικογένειας (όπως αναπτύσσονται στο πλαίσιο της θρησκείας) με τους αυστηρά καθορισμένους ρόλους της ως "βασικού κοινωνικού κυττάρου", πώς θα ενστερνιστούν την καθυπόταξη της γυναίκας (για άλλη μια φορά) και την εγκαθίδρυση της πολυγαμίας ως έκφραση της φυσικής επιλογής η οποία θα απευθύνεται σε ορισμένη μερίδα του αντρικού πληθυσμού που θα απολαμβάνει τα προνόμιά της; Για τον Ουελμπέκ, η απάντηση είναι απλή όσο και αποκαρδιωτική: πολύ εύκολα. Θα τους παρασχεθούν όλα εκείνα τα πλεονεκτήματα που επιφυλλάσσονται για τα κυρίαρχα αρσενικά: μία, δύο ή και περισσότερες σύζυγοι, επιλεγμένες ανάλογα με την κοινωνική θέση και την εξελιξιμότητα του αρσενικού. Η υπόσχεση για μια βολεμένη, νοικοκυρεμένη ζωή οικογενειακής ευημερίας με μια-δυο σκλάβες που θα φροντίζουν κάθε τους ανάγκη είναι επαρκέστατη εγγύηση για τη συνενοχή τους. Εν τέλει, η αναζοπύρωση της πατριαρχίας που αποτελεί τη θεμέλιο λίθο του καθεστώτος δεν τους βλάπτει ενώ τους παρέχει ασφάλεια και τη βεβαιότητα ότι οποτεδήποτε θελήσουν μπορούν να απαλλαγούν από τη μοναξιά χωρίς να χρειαστεί καν να δραστηριοποιηθούν ατομικά. Οι φιλελεύθερες αξίες τίθενται υπό διαπραγμάτευση και "παζαρεύονται", εμπεδωμένοι θεσμοί σταδιακά διαβρώνονται, οι πολίτες αλλοτριώνονται και υποκύπτουν στη δωροδοκία της κρατικής μηχανής που τους υπόσχεται ένα "σπιτικό". Ο στόχος επιτυγχάνεται και οι σχέσεις μεταξύ των δύο φύλων απλοποιούνται όταν μόνο το ένα μέρος έχει δικαίωμα επιλογής και γνώμης: ο κίνδυνος της απόρριψης εξαλείφεται και το προνόμιο της ανδρικής υπεροχής εξασφαλίζεται.
Γενικά δε μου φάνηκε κακό βιβλίο η "Υποταγή". Δεν είναι ακριβώς ένα δυστοπικό μυριστόρημα, είναι πιο πολύ ένα είδος προφητείας μιας επερχόμενης κοινωνικής μεταστροφής. Μπορεί μια τέτοια κοινωνία να αποτελέσει πιθανή εξέλιξη μιας Ευρώπης του μέλλοντος; Δεν είμαι σε θέση να το γνωρίζω, αλλά ο Ουελμπέκ παρουσιάζει ορισμένες εκδοχές της αρκετά πειστικά. Από την άλλη μεριά, δεν με έπεισε τελείως, διότι αφήνει απ' έξω κάποια κρίσιμα κοινωνικά και πολιτικά ζητήματα: ποιος είναι ο ρόλος της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης σε όλα αυτά; Σε όλο το βιβλίο παρουσιάζεται ως απλός παρατηρητής της πτώσης της γαλλικής κοινωνίας και της αλλαγής του ευρωπαϊκού πολιτικού σκηνικού - αλλά θα ήταν έτσι σε μια τέτοια περίπτωση; Ποια θα είναι η θέση των ομοφυλόφιλων στην μουσουλμανική κοινωνία του Ουελμπέκ; Μπορούμε μεν να το φανταστούμε, αλλά δεν καταλαμβάνει ούτε μια σειρά στον κόσμο που περιγράφει το βιβλίο. Γενικώς πιστεύω ότι λείπουν σημαντικά σημεία που δεν αναλύονται όσο θα έπρεπε ή δεν αναλύονται και καθόλου. Επίσης, κουράστηκα λίγο με τις φιλολογικές αναφορές που υποτίθεται ότι αντανακλούν τις πολιτικές και κοινωνικές εξελίξεις και τις ψυχολογικές μεταπτώσεις του κεντρικού ήρωα - τα βαριέμαι γενικώς αυτά. Τέλος, επειδή το θέμα με το οποίο καταπιάνεται δεν είναι ιδιαίτερα πρωτότυπο, θα περίμενα μια κάποια μεγαλύτερη ιδιαιτερότητα στο χειρισμό του, ώστε να κάνει πραγματική διαφορά.
Alors, si c'est mardi, c'est...Houellebecq. J'ai dû lire "Soumission" pour y compléter une image (quelque peu) - complète, sur l'auteur. Je pense que ce roman est très bon, - une dystopie visionnaire, comme c'était le cas de "1984", à l'époque. C'est vrai, des controverses peuvent survenir, sur la responsabilité de ce dystopie, où l'exacerbation du racisme, et en particulier, de l'islamophobie. Bien qu'il s'agisse, apparement, de la prise de pouvoir par un parti musulman,je ne pense pas que l'islamisation elle-même soit une référence, ici c'est juste le nome d'une parabole de script, qui illustre , en fait, l'hypothèse de soumission,et surtout, de soumission face au monothéisme.
Le roman est prophétique, pas dans le sense où il prédit l'avenir, mais, en ce qu'il expose une vérité sur le présent. L'avenir ne sera probablement pas ce que l'auteur décrit, mais s'il y a quelqu'un qui pense à ce type de mutation que nous ressentons tous, sans avoir les moyens d'intervenir, alors, celui-ci est Houellebecq. Indubitable. Car, comme il le dit, " Soumission" n'est pas un roman islamophobe, mais nous avons le droit d'ecrire un roman islamophobe, SI nous le voulons ".
In un futuro non così lontano accade che il partito di maggioranza francese sia il partito musulmano ed il Presidente francese sia un arabo. Il protagonista, François, un professore universitario studioso di Huysmans, un intellettuale misogino, solitario, incapace di avere relazioni umane tranne quelle sessuali, incapace di instaurare rapporti stabili con qualcuno, privo di radici familiari, si trova, quale spettatore inerte, in questo nuovo mondo, che in realtà cambia senza alcun trauma: è questo che lascia increduli, possibile che un cambiamento sociopolitico così radicale venga accettato senza alcuna resistenza? E le donne? Le donne, le più penalizzate da tale rivoluzione, non compaiono, non parlano, non esistono se non come mezzo di soddisfazione di piaceri maschili. Questo è il primo grande limite del libro, che da romanzo di fantapolitica degrada a un romanzo deludente. François è uno studioso di Huysmans, scrittore decadente, metafora del crollo epocale della civiltà occidentale: il vecchio mondo europeo fatto di nazionalismi e patriottismi è morto, nasce l’Eurabia, una civiltà che vuole ricalcare il vecchio impero romano, guidata da un arabo moderato che ha intenzione di realizzare una vera Europa, senza singoli Stati nazionali, unita dall’Islam. Per François ciò non ha alcun interesse, è lontano da ogni ideologia, sia quella cattolica che quella comunista, non ha alcun interesse per “l’uomo” e per la religione. Secondo me c’è ancor di più, François vorrebbe ricordare Des Esseintes, il protagonista di À rebour, che vive isolato dalla società evitando ogni contatto esterno col mondo che sostanzialmente disprezza: François lascia l’università senza opporre resistenza, rifiuta qualsiasi rapporto con i suoi simili, il suo ideale diventa stare lontano dal mondo, chiuso in casa, con libri e alcoolici. Anche il finale ricorda quello del romanzo di Huysmans: il protagonista cede, “si sottomette”alla forza primigenia del mondo islamizzato e ritorna ad una vita sociale, che però è completamente cambiata ed egli vi si adatta come ad una seconda opportunità di vita, certamente più “consona” alle esigenze di un maschio con esclusivi interessi sessuali rispetto a quanto offriva la vecchia società occidentale fondata sul cattolicesimo. Ecco: io nel romanzo ci ho visto questo, un'opera in cui si parla di un uomo occidentale che invecchiando ha paura della perdita di potenza sessuale, disposto a "sottomettersi"alla cultura islamica, di cui non gli importa un accidente, in cambio di sesso garantito. In sintesi un romanzo deludente, poco verosimile, a lunghi tratti noioso, inutile.