Australian Journal of French Studies

Who’s Afraid of Michel Houellebecq? The Answer: Almost Everyone

Australian Journal of French Studies (2019), 56, (1), 37–52.

Abstract

Michel Houellebecq’s fiction clearly possesses a polemical and prophetic dimension. And yet, since critical studies of Houellebecq’s work began in the early 2000s, a scholarly tendency has been to dilute or muddle this dimension of his fiction because of the uncomfortable questions it raises about religion, feminism, sexual liberation, immigration, and, more generally, cultural change in Europe. I point out expressions of this tendency among established Houellebecq scholars, offer explanations of what I believe motivates it, and then give a reading of Soumission that does justice to the novel’s polemical and prophetic qualities. In other words, I argue that Houellebecq has something to say in his fiction, and that attempts to diminish his status as a novelist of ideas are motivated more by ideological anxieties about his work’s polemics and cultural influence, and less by principled concern for exegetical accuracy.

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Author details

Betty, Louis