Michel Houellebecq provokes France with story of Muslim president Kim
Willsher in Paris
Soumission (Submission) is the latest work from provocative French author who considers Islam ‘cretinous’
16 December 2014 15.32 GMT
Award-winning French novelist Michel Houellebecq
has sparked an outcry after it emerged that his new novel tells of France being run by a Muslim president.
In 2022, with the help of the French Socialist party and the centrists, Mohammed Ben Abbes defeats the far-right Front National and takes up residence at the Elysée Palace. The country is in turmoil.
Soumission (Submission), which will be published in the new year, will confirm Houellebecq’s reputation as one of France’s most provocative writers
Even the title has been described as provocative, suggesting a translation of the word “Islam”, which in Arabic means submission to the will of Allah.
The narrator of the plot, described as a typical Houellebecq antihero, is a 44-year-old literary professor, who occasionally frequents prostitutes and is attracted by women half his age.
The novel suggests that despite record unpopularity, France’s Socialist president, François Hollande, clings on to power until 2022, but is eliminated in the first round of the presidential elections by a far-right Front National candidate and by Ben Abbes, representing the imaginary Muslim Fraternity party. With the support of the left, centre and the centre-right UMP party led by former president Nicolas Sarkozy, Abbes wins the election.
Les Inrockuptibles magazine said the plot “completely overturns society”.
Houellebecq, 56, whose real name is Michel Thomas, caused a row with his book Les Particules élémentaires (Atomised in English) in which he suggested the hippies of the May 1968 student movement had created the “serial killers of the 1990s”.
In an 2001 interview with the review Lire he attacked Islam describing it as “the most stupid religion”.
“I say to myself that the fact of believing in a single god is the behaviour of a cretin, I can’t find another word. And the stupidest religion is, let’s face it, Islam … the Bible, at least, is beautiful because the Jews have a huge literary talent … and for that they can be forgiven much.”
Afterwards, four Muslim organisations took legal action against him claiming he was “insulting a group of people because of their religious beliefs” and was “complicit in inciting racial hatred”.
Houellebecq told the court he did not despise Muslims, but held contempt for their religion adding that like Christianity and Judaism it was based on “texts of hate”. The court dismissed the case against him.
Soumission is Houellebecq’s first novel since 2010 when he published La Carte et le Territoire (The Map and the Territory), which featured as its main character the “celebrated novelist Michel Houllebecq”. The novel won the Prix Goncourt, France’s top literary award.
Houllebecq is the most translated, and hence internationally renowned, of all France’s contemporary writers, but has been accused of racism, xenophobia and playing up to the media.
Soumission will be his sixth novel.
On Tuesday, France’s culture minister, Fleur Pellerin, told French radio she would certainly read it, adding that Houellebecq had always been a “provocative novelist” who had a “strange sense of humour.”
France24 television said the 300-page book risked “inflaming passions”.“We all know the writer’s taste for provocation and soundbite declarations,” it said.
In the 2011 Lire interview, Houellebecq, who admitted he was “always on the side of the Jews” directed his bile not only at Islam but other “monotheisms” for which he said he felt a “total rejection”. In an interview in August he told French journalists he found “the figure of Christ to be very unpleasant”.
Soumission is published by Flammarion on 7 January.
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