Michel Houllebecq, France’s famously controversial novelist, has a new book (Soumission) – published this week in extraordinary timing – depicting a possible future for France with a Muslim president. Both the book and the interview below in the Paris Review were carried out before the Charlie Hebdo massacre, but it’s clear that Houellebecq has zeroed in on the religious versus secularist tension in France.
After the attack, The French prime minister, Manuel Valls, stated: “France is not Houellebecq. It’s not intolerance, hatred and fear.” Houellebecq is apparently in hiding and his publisher’s office is under police protection. Regarding the book itself, he tells interviewer Sylvain Bourmeau:
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Is this a satirical novel?
No. Maybe a small part of the book satirizes political journalists—politicians a little bit, too, to be honest. But the main characters are not satirical.
Where did you get the idea for a presidential election, in 2022, that came down to Marine Le Pen and the leader of a Muslim party?