Monday, February 20, 2006

Michel Houellebecq

Envious Parasites of Literary Success...

An anti-Houellebecq manifesto..

A rainy Sunday in the Ciudad made me stay at home with diet salads and Jean-François Patricola's demolition job on the literary achievements of Michel Houellebecq.
This blogger of yours is ready to concede that to like Houellebecq's prose might be an acquired taste (but so is caviar..). But to write a 273 pages essay to accuse Uncle Michel of almost every sin on Earth from a supposedly serious intellectual angle is a bit too much, the Honourable Reader might agree..
The "niche" of Houellebecq's prose stems from the confluence of an anger voice (the "fuck all" attitude which is very rock and roll) with Sci-Fi and X-rated sex imagery.
True anger in literature (neither faked nor posture but coming out from every pore) is a difficult achievement. Céline was the unsurpassed Master, and France has not produced a writer of his caliber since the "Voyage au Bout de la Nuit". In a bookworld of too much niceties or fake rebellion, Houellebecq's iconoclasty is refreshing.
The sci-fi dimension connects MH with Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" stuff and the essayist almost performs a similar attempt at character assassination of the author of such near-masterpieces as "Eyeless in Gaza" or "Chrome Yellow". Nobody reads the early Huxley any more, only the futurologic books or the mescaline intake in " The Doors of Perception" still excites the reading public. Huxley was a man of Humanities who had also a solid relationship with Science (via his family. That's how it works in Britain, too long to explain). That's what ruffles the feathers of too many critics or fellow writers who are "one-culture only" and cannot feel at ease with "bi-cultured" minds (C.P. Snow's "The Two Cultures" should be obligatory reading.. even nowadays!). Houellebecqcq has a scientific background (a degree in Agronomy) and much of the sci-fi incursions in his novels might be risky but they sound credible to a sciences-educated reader.
And what about the use of down-to-earth pornographic imagery in his writings? Surely nobody's shocked with it anymore? Specially because his sociological approach of today's Sexual Politics is perhaps the most distinctive feature of his literary oeuvre. He wants to say something out of that provocative sex stuff, it's not just macintosh-clad exhibitionism.
Céline is enormous. Huxley's mainstream novels well deserve not to be forgotten. Houellebecq is a (contemporary) must-read.

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