Australian Journal of French Studies

Strange Bedfellows: Paule Constant, Michel Houellebecq, and Political Correctness

Australian Journal of French Studies (2019), 56, (1), 75–90.

Abstract

This article compares the work and authorial personas of two, ostensibly very different contemporary French writers, Paule Constant and Michel Houellebecq. The two nevertheless found themselves thrust together in a media maelstrom when Constant’s novel Confidence pour confidence won the 1998 Prix Goncourt rather than that year’s succès de scandale, Houellebecq’s Les Particules élémentaires. It argues that such a comparison in fact reveals a number of intriguing similarities between the two writers, including the deep cynicism and dark but brilliant humour that pervade both of their ɶuvres. Yet one of the most salient similarities, it will show, is the “political incorrectness” of much of both authors’ writing, as well as of at least some of their comments to the media. It will further suggest that, although Houellebecq’s political incorrectness surpasses that of Constant, his has served him rather better than Constant’s has her, for a number of reasons that will be considered.

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Author details

Willging, Jennifer