Synopses & Reviews
A controversial, intelligent, and mordantly funny new novel from France's most famous living literary figure
2022. François is bored. He's a middle-aged lecturer at the New
Sorbonne University and an expert on J. K. Huysmans, the famous
nineteenth-century Decadent author. But François's own decadence is
considerably smaller in scale. He sleeps with his students, eats
microwave dinners, rereads Huysmans, queues up YouPorn.
it's election season. And although Francois feels "about as political
as a bath towel," things are getting pretty interesting. In an alliance
with the Socialists, France's new Islamic party sweeps to power. Islamic
law comes into force. Women are veiled, polygamy is encouraged, and
François is offered an irresistible academic advancement — on the
condition that he convert to Islam.
Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker has said of Submission that "Houellebecq is not merely a satirist but — more unusually — a sincere
satirist, genuinely saddened by the absurdities of history and the
madnesses of mankind." Michel Houellebecq's new book may be satirical
and melancholic, but it is also hilarious, a comic masterpiece by one of
France's great novelists.
"It's hard to overstate the controversy that has hounded Houellebecq's Submission since its publication in France — which coincided with the attacks on the office of Charlie Hebdo — and the persistent accusations of Islamophobia might well color the reception of the English-language translation (by Lorin Stein of the Paris Review). This would be a travesty. The novel's moral complexity, concerned above all with how politics shape — or annihilate — personal ethics, is singular and brilliant. An expert on the works of J.K. Huysmans, François is a lonely professor at a semi-prestigious Paris university; subsisting on frozen dinners and occasional sex, he is politically indifferent. Nonetheless, he is forced to take notice when the Muslim Brotherhood, under the leadership of the charismatic Mohammed Ben Abbes, comes to power in an electoral coup. François's colleagues scramble to adapt to (or resist) the now non-secular university's policies, as women are excluded from teaching and a Muslim-friendly president is installed. François travels to the monastery where Huysmans himself took refuge, knowing that if he returns to Paris, he will find a changed country. Eventually, he will have to reckon with his own convictions or join the bulk of his fellow intellectuals in convenient conversion to the new regime. This novel is not a paranoid political fantasy; it merely contains one. Houellebecq's argument becomes an investigation of the content of ideology, and he has written an indispensable, serious book that returns a long-eroded sense of consequence, immediacy, and force to contemporary literature. Agent: Francois Samuelson, Intertalent. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Submission may be the most relevant book of the year." Daniel D'Addario, Time
“The political elements of Submission are so comically
exaggerated that it's hard to take them very seriously . . . This is the
novel's big joke. It's designed to agitate the right by suggesting the
right may have a point about the erosion of France's national culture,
and to tweak the left by lending ironic credence to the right's fears . .
. The only time Houellebecq seems not to be joking is when Francois
speaks about literature . . . Whatever it says or doesn't say about
Europe and Islam, Submission is a love letter to the novel itself.” Christian Lorentzen, New York Magazine
"Houellebecq is considered a great contemporary author, and one cannot
be said to be keeping abreast of contemporary literature without reading
his work . . . What prevents me from reading Houellebecq and watching
von Trier is a kind of envy — not that I begrudge them success, but by
reading the books and watching the films I would be reminded of how
excellent a work of art can be, and of how far beneath that level my own
work is." Karl Ove Knausgaard, The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Michel Houellebecq is a French novelist, poet, and literary critic. His novels include the international bestseller The Elementary Particles and The Map and the Territory, which won the 2010 Prix Goncourt. He lives in France.