Australian Journal of French Studies

The Banality of Monstrosity: On Michel Houellebecq’s Soumission

Australian Journal of French Studies (2018), 55, (2), 202–217.

Abstract

As so often with Houellebecq’s work, the shock and scandal of his most recent novel Soumission is not to be found where we might expect: despite the extraordinary coincidence of the book’s publication with the murderous Islamist attacks on Charlie Hebdo, Houellebecq imagines a proximate future in which France democratically elects a moderate Islamist party to government. Readers are asked to accept as logical developments that French citizens will agree to a national education system in which all teachers must convert to Islam, or a society in which women are not expected to work. This ability to make monstrous developments appear rational and even inevitable is familiar from Houellebecq’s earlier novels. This article situates the provocative conclusions of Soumission in the context of this earlier work, showing how the novel develops the author’s reflections on the nuisances of bureaucracy in late capitalism and further explores his hypothesis that religious faith is the only lasting foundation on which a society can be built, an idea explored here through Houellebecq’s detailed engagement with J. K. Huysmans.

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Author details

Morrey, Douglas

Morrey, Douglas