Nothing to Regret

Michel Houellebecq is one of France’s best regarded novelists, nonfiction writers, and essayists.  His latest novel, Soumission (Submission), appearing some months after the publication of Éric Zemmour’s Le suicide français, in the same month as the murders at Charlie Hebdo, and following a series of killings of Jews by Muslims in several French cities and in Belgium, has inherited the whirlwind, though Houellebecq is not a “political” novelist.  He is a very French one, somewhat in the manner of Camus (whose L’Étranger, or The Stranger, Soumission recalled for me), though Houellebecq’s interests do not lie, so far as I can tell, in existentialism or abnormal psychology, and many of Soumission’s affinities with L’Étranger have to do with his prose style and narrative technique, poetic like Camus’s though not so pared down.  Houellebecq is, rather, a social novelist with a critical eye comparable to Balzac’s in its ability to perceive the corruption and decay of French society in his own time.

Soumission naturally invites comparison with Jean Raspail’s Camp of the Saints, published in the early 70’s, but the comparison holds only so far as the subject of Muslim aggression against the West goes; the literary treatment is the...

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