From The American Interest: ‘The Unbearable Lightness Of Freedom:’
‘But one shouldn’t read Submission for its plot. Indeed, the various cheap shortcuts Houellebecq takes in setting up the storyline obscure his major strengths as an author. His talents are much more sharply on display in his previous works.’
Perhaps it’s best not to read a book if you’re not getting some pleasure out of its author’s artistry and abilities?
I do confess the below subject is a favorite of mine:
‘In this, Houellebecq’s intellectual challenge to liberalism is much more troubling than the quite frankly preposterous fictional prospect of a Muslim takeover of France. That people will not willingly submit is central to liberalism’s survivalThat people will not willingly submit is central to liberalism’s survival: citizens must bear the responsibility of choosing and questioning, rather than relying blindly on external authority. We want to believe that only fear, violence or lack of education—exterior factors of constraint—should prevent people from naturally wanting to be free.’
Perhaps novels, poems, music and works of art shouldn’t conform to one’s religious principles, metaphysical doctrines, political philosophy, one’s commitments to activist movements we find in the West (feminist, environmentalist etc)…
Perhaps it is a mistake to ask that they do, and one that good artists continually remind us of not making through their art.
As previously posted:
Interview sent in by a reader with Hollebecq on his ‘Soumission,’ which, in his fictional world, imagines a soon-to-be Muslim candidate defeating a French nationalist candidate, followed by an ultimate submission of French society to Islamic law and political leadership.
Interesting discussion at the link (including a deflation of (R)acism as critical theory).
‘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.’
On some of Hollebecq’s thinking behind the creative work:
‘Yes. It has to happen sometime and it might as well be now. In this sense, too, I am a Comtean. We are in what he calls the metaphysical stage, which began in the Middle Ages and whose whole point was to destroy the phase that preceded it. In itself, it can produce nothing, just emptiness and unhappiness. So yes, I am hostile to Enlightenment philosophy, I need to make that perfectly clear. ‘
Whoa, at least he’s relatively up front about that.
Isn’t it possible to reject Hollebecq’s modernity-is-dead worldview AND also put the universal claims of progressive, collectivist, ideological, postmodern, multicultural feminist discontents into their proper perspective…without suggesting the end of the modern world and some presumed next stage to be reached?
And as for discussions of art: Is the book worth a read?
From the comments:
‘Those of you regarding e.g. feminism as somehow an antidote to the patriarchal impulses in enlightenment thinking or Islam, or in broader terms postmodern political and social movements as offering a ‘third way’, something totally new and immune from this dynamic of competitive decay and decline, forget the fact that these movements are themselves the most recent outgrowths of the emancipative instinct, one of the core features deeply rooted in Western thought ever since the renaissance, as Barzun described. As an Asian living in the West myself, I have to tell you that this instinct is simply not present as a core element in other civilisations, and is indeed distinctive about the West. That Japan and Korea, and for that matter every non-western nation, modernised without a countercultural ‘values’ rebellion is indicative in this regard. The west is going to be without allies as it goes with a whimper.
Under such a depressing worldview, hope is provided for by religion and mysticism, a return to medievalism. It is sad, because the West will truly die as it numbs its own most deeply embedded instincts in the process of conversion, but the mysticism is a form of hope for the masses, who never particularly cared for high ideals anyway.
Houellebecq seems to channel Spengler, who hardly anybody reads nowadays. But that such an interesting thinker is hardly glanced at today is an indictment of us, not of him.’
Also, from the comments. Hubristic, but there’s something to the grandiosity and deflated nihilism: