houellebecq   78

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Frank on French - Pro Helvetia
RG: How good is our knowledge of modern French writers?
FW: Poor and patchy. One of the most important and influential literary authors in France in the past thirty years has been Christine Angot, whose intimate, often claustrophobic autofictions have garnered prizes, glowing reviews and spectacular sales, yet none of her books have ever been translated into English. Much the same might be said of commercial fiction: the top-selling authors in France of 2016 were Guillaume Musso and Françoise Bourdin, with home sales ranging between 700,000 to 1.8 million copies. But while Gallic Books made a valiant attempt to publish Musso here some years ago, he remains almost entirely unknown, while Bourdin has never been translated. Even writers of major international stature can slip through the cracks. For twelve years, I tried to persuade various editors to translate and publish Patrick Modiano, whom I considered one of the finest post-war French writers. It took the announcement by the Nobel Academy in 2014 to catapult Modiano from being what one editor once described as a “fine, rather slight, very French” author towards an English-language readership...
the recent re-emergence of Small Press publishers like Gallic and Les Fugitives (publishing exclusively from French) or Alma, And Other Stories, Pushkin Press and Peirene Press (who favour literature in translation), is gradually beginning to redress this balance.
français  literature  translation  houellebecq 
october 2017 by juliusbeezer
La posibilidad de una isla, de Letras Libres
Demoledora crítica a MH por parte de Letras Libres. Me gusta una línea: "El viaje, como todo viaje, es decepcionante. El clon descubre lo que ya se sabía: la desaparición del humano está justificada".
Decepción  Houellebecq 
april 2017 by Raus
La posibilidad de una isla
Es interesante cómo se le critica a MH las formas en que se ocupa de lo sexual... cuando a mí me parece que su desencanto en torno al paso del tiempo, el amor y esas cosas, se potencia en esos temas
Houellebecq  Amor  sexo  Futuro 
april 2017 by Raus
Las partículas elementales
Reseña sobre la mejor novela de MH... después de La Posibilidad de una Isla.
Houellebecq  Cinismo  Soledad 
april 2017 by Raus
Must It Be the Rest Against the West? - 94.12
December 1994

"Now, stretching over that empty sea, aground some fifty yards out, [lay] the incredible fleet from the other side of the globe, the rusty, creaking fleet that the old professor had been eyeing since morning. . . . He pressed his eye to the glass, and the first things he saw were arms. . . . Then he started to count. Calm and unhurried. But it was like trying to count all the trees in the forest, those arms raised high in the air, waving and shaking together, all outstretched toward the nearby shore. Scraggy branches, brown and black, quickened by a breath of hope. All bare, those fleshless Gandhi-arms. . . . thirty thousand creatures on a single ship!"
--The Camp of the Saints

Welcome to the 300-page narrative of Jean Raspail's disturbing, chilling, futuristic novel The Camp of the Saints, first published in Paris twenty-one years ago and translated into English a short while later. Set at some vague time--perhaps fifteen or twenty years--in the future, the novel describes the pilgrimage of a million desperate Indians who, forsaking the ghastly conditions of downtown Calcutta and surrounding villages, commandeer an armada of decrepit ships and set off for the French Riviera. The catalyst for this irruption is simple enough. Moved by accounts of widespread famine across an Indian subcontinent collapsing under the sheer weight of its fast-growing population, the Belgian government has decided to admit and adopt a number of young children; but the policy is reversed when tens of thousands of mothers begin to push their babies against the Belgian consul general's gates in Calcutta. After mobbing the building in disgust at Belgium's change of mind, the crowd is further inflamed by a messianic speech from one of their number, an untouchable, a gaunt, eye-catching "turd eater," who calls for the poor and wretched of the world to advance upon the Western paradise: "The nations are rising from the four corners of the earth," Raspail has the man say, "and their number is like the sand of the sea. They will march up over the broad earth and surround the camp of the saints and the beloved city. . . ." Storming on board every ship within range, the crowds force the crews to take them on a lengthy, horrific voyage, around Africa and through the Strait of Gibraltar to the southern shores of France.

But it is not the huddled mass of Indians, with their "fleshless Gandhi-arms," that is the focus of Raspail's attention so much as the varied responses of the French and the other privileged members of "the camp of the saints" as they debate how to deal with the inexorably advancing multitude. Raspail is particularly effective here in capturing the platitudes of official announcements, the voices of ordinary people, the tone of statements by concerned bishops, and so on. The book also seems realistic in its recounting of the crumbling away of resolve by French sailors and soldiers when they are given the order to repel physically--to shoot or torpedo--this armada of helpless yet menacing people. It would be much easier, clearly, to confront a military foe, such as a Warsaw Pact nation. The fifty-one (short) chapters are skillfully arranged so that the reader's attention is switched back and forth, within a two-month time frame, between the anxious debates in Paris and events attending the slow and grisly voyage of the Calcutta masses. The denouement, with the French population fleeing their southern regions and army units deserting in droves, is especially dramatic.

Garett Jones tweet:
the West may have developed structural weaknesses in its core value systems and institutions

Museum game I often play:

Walk into a gallery, ask my friend, "If the gallery caught on fire right now, and you and I could only save one painting in this room, which should it it be?"

Inspired by a related game I attribute to Tyler Cowen:

If you have a set budget to spend in this room of the museum, which paintings would you buy?

I think the differences in the game are, um, signs of deeper differences in our intellectual interests! :)
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january 2017 by nhaliday
Michel Houellebecq Defends His Controversial New Novel
holy shit this exchange:
But you don’t need me to tell you how a novel can be used as an epistemological tool. That was the subject of The Map and the Territory. In this book, I feel that you have adopted categories of description, oppositions, that are worse than dubious—the sort of categories relied on by the editors of Causeur, or by Alain Finkielkraut, Éric Zemmour, even Renaud Camus. For example, the “opposition” between antiracism and secularism.

One cannot deny there is a contradiction there.

I don’t see it. On the contrary, the same people are often militant antiracists and fervent defenders of secularism, with both ways of thinking rooted in the Enlightenment.

_Look, the Enlightenment is dead, may it rest in peace._ A striking example? The left wing candidate on Olivier Besancenot’s ticket who wore the veil, there’s a contradiction for you. But only the Muslims are in an actually schizophrenic situation. On the level of what we customarily call values, Muslims have more in common with the extreme right than with the left. There is a more fundamental opposition between a Muslim and an atheist than between a Muslim and a Catholic. That seems obvious to me.

But I don’t understand the connection with racism …

That’s because there is none. Objectively speaking, there is none. When I was tried for racism and acquitted, a decade ago, the prosecutor remarked, correctly, that the Muslim religion was not a racial trait. This has become even more obvious today. So we have extended the domain of “racism” by inventing the crime of islamophobia.

The word may be badly chosen, but there do exist forms of stigma toward groups or categories of person, which are forms of racism …

_No, islamophobia is not a kind of racism. If anything has become obvious, it’s that._

Islamophobia serves as a screen for a kind of racism that can no longer be expressed because it’s against the law.

I think that’s just false. I don’t agree.

You rely on another dubious dichotomy, the opposition between anti-Semitism and racism, when actually we can point to many moments in history when those two things have gone hand in hand.

I think anti-Semitism has nothing to do with racism. I’ve spent time trying to understand anti-Semitism, as it happens. One’s first impulse is to connect it with racism. But what kind of racism is it when a person can’t say whether somebody is Jewish or not Jewish, because the difference can’t be seen? Racism is more elementary than that, it’s a different skin color …

No, because cultural racism has been with us for a long time.

But now you’re asking words to mean something they don’t. Racism is simply when you don’t like somebody because he belongs to another race, because he hasn’t got the same color skin that you do, or the same features, et cetera. You can’t stretch the word to give it some higher meaning.

But since, from a biological point of view, “races” don’t exist, racism is necessarily cultural.

But racism exists, apparently, all around us. Obviously it has existed from the moment when races first began mixing … Be honest, Sylvain! You know very well that a racist is someone who doesn’t like somebody else because he has black skin or because he has an Arab face. That’s what racism is.

Or because his values or his culture are …

No, that’s a different problem, I’m sorry.

Because he is polygamous, for example.

Ah, well, one can be shocked by polygamy without being the least bit racist. That must be the case for lots of people who are not the least bit racist. But let’s go back to anti-Semitism, because we’ve gotten off topic. Seeing as how no one has ever been able to tell whether somebody is Jewish just by his appearance or even by his way of life, since by the time anti-Semitism really developed, very few Jews had a Jewish way of life, what could antisemitism really mean? It’s not a kind of racism. All you have to do is read the texts to realize that anti-Semitism is simply a conspiracy theory—there are hidden people who are responsible for all the unhappiness in the world, who are plotting against us, there’s an invader in our midst. If the world is going badly, it’s because of the Jews, because of Jewish banks … It’s a conspiracy theory.


We haven’t spoken much about women. Once again you will attract criticism on that front.

Certainly a feminist is not likely to love this book. But I can’t do anything about that.

And yet you were shocked when people described Whatever as misogynistic. This book won’t help your case.

I still don’t think I’m a misogynist, really. I would say that this isn’t the crucial thing, in any case. The thing that may rub people the wrong way is that I show how feminism is demographically doomed. So the underlying idea, which may really upset people in the end, is that ideology doesn’t matter much compared to demographics.
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december 2016 by nhaliday

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