Journal of Romance studies

Notions of a postsecular nation

Michel Houellbecq’s Soumission and Sabri Loutah’s Les Sauvages I–IV

Journal of Romance studies (2019), 19, (1), 115–133.


In ‘Notes on a Postsecular Society’, Jürgen Habermas argues that European nations now face the unsettling of long-held givens about the relationship between the secular and the modern. It was believed that as modernity spread throughout the world, so would a secular way of life. This has come under review because of growing religious minorities (Muslims in particular) in Europe itself, who have led European peoples to rethink the nature and future of their secularity. Both Michel Houellebecq’s Soumission (2015) and Sabri Louatah’s novel series Les Sauvages (20112016) present postsecular scenarios in which a French president from a minority North African Muslim community is elected. I explore the differentiated way in which both tales suggest that social change means a renegotiation of the narratives that help to make up the social fabric (whether these be literary, scriptural, or political), and explore the role of literary writing in this renegotiation.

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Author details

Qadiri, Sura