Submission

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Houellebecq is a true master of refined literature, delicate subjects and penetrating meanings.
Submission is a dystopian novel set in 2022 where the moral and the ideals of academic intellectuals in the Western European society have declined to the level of alienation, indifference and disbelief in idealism. The core of their values has been reduced to pure pragmatism. The lack of faith in concrete or established beliefs and apathy towards on-going political structures creates fertile grounds for religious ideologies to rise to the surface of the political scene. Thus France elects its first muslim president.
Perplexed with this situation and its immediate consequences the protagonist François suddenly wakes up in his misanthropic and meaningless life in search of merits for his own existence. His academic career as a XIX century literature professor and a Huysmans specialist has brought him well deserved success and fame amongst the scholarly circles, however the purpose of his own life has remained uncertain. Perhaps driven by the lack of parental love at earlier age and his failed relationship with his student girlfriend, or just because he is the trademark Houellebecq character with limited social contacts and communication, isolated in his own capsule, François’ only regard is Huysmans’ works and life and their reflections in his own reality.
François’ philosophical journey in understanding the current political adjustments gradually exposes him to a new perspective of sustainable ideology. Supped by the currents in the academic circles he finally submits to the doctrinal conditions imposed by the new president.

Submission is a profound work of discomfort that challenges our modern values of tolerance, acceptance and attachment in a provocative and decadent setting.

“The Map and Territory” by Michel Houellebecq

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Michel Houellebeqc is the ultimate misanthrope in literature I have known so far, yet his works are so addictive that I realized I placed him amongst my favorite authors. Amidst the gloomy and unavoidable destiny clouding the paths of his characters, I most often find an immaculate innocence deeply rooted in their souls. His latest novel, “The Map and Territory” is enveloped with the raw features of the winter season – dark, cold, cheerless. It is not a surprise that the storyline is mostly narrated in the frigid months of the year, contrasting to this fact, I noticed, that the novel is layered with more satire compared to his other works.

In “The Map and Territory” we meet Jed Martin, simply an artist who, of course, lacks any social skills, yet becomes very successful after an exhibition of his photographs. At the event Jed encounters Olga, a progressive young woman, who is willing to love and care for him. Being a socially autistic, Jed is perplexed how to deal with his feelings for her:

Olga was nice, she was nice and loving, Olga loved him, he repeated to himself with a growing sadness as he also realized that nothing would ever happen between them again; life sometimes offers you a chance, he thought, but when you are too cowardy or too indecisive to seize it life takes the cards away; there is a moment for doing things and entering a possible happiness, and this moment lasts a few days, sometimes a few weeks or even a few months, but it happens once and one time only, and if you want to return to it later it’s quite simply impossible. There’s no more place for enthusiasm, belief, and faith, and there remains just gentle resignation, a sad and reciprocal pity, the useless but correct sensation that something could have happened, that you just simply shaved yourself unworthy of this gift you had been offered.”

Jed is not only puzzled regarding his love for Olga, but also he hardly accepts his friendship with the author Michel Houellebecq who was kindly asked to write a prolog for Jed’s next exhibition. Yes, Michel Houellebecq himself is a main character in the novel.

Again Houellebecq’s criticism with its derisive tone on modern life, manifests through the pages. I was not surprised to encounter the character of another bohemian of contemporary French literature – Frederic Beigbeder, who is also depict in the novel, just as I have always imagined him – cynical, self-centered and armed with the entire French arrogance.

Interweaving real personalities with fiction, cultural upsurge with dreadful crime and, of course, discussions about writers, artists, architects; Michel Houellebecq, once more, offers substantial piece of work which perfectly fits our time.

 

 

“Platform” by Michel Houellebecq

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Reading Houellebecq, one can never be indifferent to his opinion, it`s a bipolar relationship of admiration or condemnation. His point of view is perplexed. To get a clear vision of his philosophy I needed to familiarize myself in deep with his works. The nuances of his novels are strikingly depressive, the characters – introvert loners, whose existence is defined by their sexual necessity. The pages are saturated with scenes of sexual conduction, in which vulgarity is manifested, yet non offensive. Well, at least, I think so.

“Platform” reminds me a lot of “The Stranger” by Albert Camus. The leading characters of both novels share identical social status, with the sole difference that Michel (“Platform”) is more contemporary than Mersault (“The Stranger”), two lonely bureaucrats that met love in the middle of their apathetic existence. Both characters pave similar paths of solitude, hope and decadence.

To end the short parallel between the novels, I would not conceal that the philosophic complexity of “Platform” embedded me with the impression that “The Stranger” was a fairytale.

In “Platform” one sinks. Houellebecq possesses the genius ability to describe quite accurately  the gray shades of modern society. I praise the organic way that he reveals the nature of sex tourism – the hedonistic aspect of it reflecting through the scenes of intimacy. Even after all the lust I did not feel violated. Amongst the lust there is love – tender love, reviving and unconditional.

The driving force of pleasure in the storyline coexists with  ideas of women’s emancipation, economic and political relations in corporate business, the relation between suffering and sexual extravagance and obvious despise of Islam.

Michel Houellebecq carefully sifts out the lumps of modern society through the sieve of his philosophical ideology and is  skillfully unveiling them. His findings highlight the unspoken, yet obvious dark sides of contemporary Western lifestyle. The author has no inhibitions in his outlook on life and I find this to be the reason why his works аrе scandalously frank.

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