Houellebecq lets France guess with new “angry” novel – Books
After hailing Donald Trump last week as “one of the best American presidents,” Michel Houellebecq, the aging bad boy of French letters, could have another shock up his sleeve.
The controversial writer, who has made a reputation for successful novels about sex tourism, swingers clubs and everyday misogyny, has called his next novel after the “happy Chemical” that breeds well-being and happiness.
“Sérotonine,” to be released in French on January 4, then in Italian a week later, comes months after Houellebecq married a third time to a Chinese woman in her twenties her junior.
The Wags on social media joked that with such a heartwarming headline, the arch-misrabist could soften his notoriously cynical take on life in his old age.
But others have warned that the nihilism that has marked novels such as “Atomisé”, “Plateforme” and “The Map and the Territory”, winner of the Goncourt Prize, is unlikely to have been shaken by three months of nuptial happiness with Qianyum Lysis, born in Shanghai. Li.
Critic Nelly Kaprielian, of the French magazine Les Inrockuptibles, says the story is grappling with globalization and the crisis hitting provincial France.
It features a “typically solitary Houellebecqien narrator, haunted by his past and his failed loves, kept alive by an antidepressant drug based on serotonin”.
With the contents of the book believed to be strictly secret until it goes on sale, Kaprielian called it a “beautiful twilight novel, perhaps the author’s darkest.”
Channeling popular anger
With his much-publicized dislike of the EU and liberal causes, Houellebecq became something of a French far-right pin-up after his highly controversial latest novel, “Soumission”, which imagined life under Sharia law after the election. of an Islamist. as French president in 2022.
It emerged the same day jihadists attacked the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January 2015, killing 12 people, including one of the writer’s closest friends.
Houellebecq, 62, canceled his promotional tour after the massacre and went into hiding, later reappearing to give a tearful interview on French television.
But according to Kaprielian, in “Sérotonin” his policy veers more towards the extreme left, “if they had to be categorized, or rather towards the angry and ‘apolitical’ protest movement of the yellow vests”, which shook France these last few weeks.
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Houellebecq drew a lot of attention on social media last week with an article in US magazine Harper’s declaring Trump a good president even though he was “a terrible clown.”
The writer rejoiced at the idea that his presidency would herald the end of US imperialism.
“The United States of America is no longer the world’s leading power. This is not necessarily bad news for Americans,” he wrote.
“This is very good news for the rest of the world. The Americans are letting us go. The Americans are letting us exist,” he added.
Houellebecq’s Flammarion editions said they would print 320,000 copies of “Serotonin” for its first run, an unusually high number for France.
His latest book “Soumission” has sold around 800,000 copies in France alone.