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Submission: A Novel
     

Submission: A Novel

4.5 2
by Michel Houellebecq, Lorin Stein (Translator)
 

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A controversial, intelligent, and mordantly funny new novel from Frances most famous living literary figure

It’s 2022. François is bored. He’s a middle-aged lecturer at the New Sorbonne University and an expert on J. K. Huysmans, the famed nineteenth-century novelist associated with the Decadent movement. But

Overview

A controversial, intelligent, and mordantly funny new novel from Frances most famous living literary figure

It’s 2022. François is bored. He’s a middle-aged lecturer at the New Sorbonne University and an expert on J. K. Huysmans, the famed nineteenth-century novelist associated with the Decadent movement. But François’s own decadence is of considerably smaller scale. He sleeps with his students, eats microwave dinners, and watches YouPorn.

Meanwhile, it’s election season, and in an alliance with the Socialists, France’s new Islamic party sweeps to power—and Islamic law is instituted. Women are veiled, polygamy is encouraged, and François is offered an irresistible academic advancement—on the condition that he converts to Islam.

A darkly comic masterpiece from one of France’s great writers, Submission by Michel Houellebecq has become an international sensation and one of the most discussed novels of our time.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Submission may be the most relevant book of the year." —Daniel D'Addario, Time

"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

“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's recent work—especially The Map and the Territory, one of the finest novels of the 21st century—is elegant, sad, all the more discomfiting in that we never quite know how much subtlety to credit the author with. Houellebecq writes on shifting sands. But I think he might just be permanent.” —Michael Robbins,The Chicago Tribune

“In Submission, Houellebecq is no less afraid to foment than in previous works, but his audacity serves a purpose that may not be immediately evident. His goal in this quasi-dystopian novel is to cast a light on contemporary French society and the deficiencies he perceives and to suggest that the future he predicts isn't wholly beyond the realm of possibility . . . A challenging satire that, at its best, is subtler than its author's reputation might lead you to expect.” —Michael Margas, The San Francisco Chronicle

“Houellebec's deadpan comedic edge . . . defies the reader to find the line between parody and philosophy . . . What Houellebecq has done in Submission is hold up a mirror to his readers. The charge is that he inflames animosity by depicting a Muslim-influenced France as something of which Europeans should be frightened. But he puts readers and critics in the position of having to specify what exactly is frightening about this France.” —S. Mark Heim, The Christian Century

“Michel Houellebecq: butcher. Messy slaughterer of sacred cows. Disembowler of all modes of political correctness, from the myth of the modern male's respect for women to the laughable fiction of the liberal Westerner's respect for non-Western cultures. That's the story, anyway. Like most good stories, it isn't true, for the most part . . . [Submission] is a work of genius, sure—with Houellebecq that goes without saying. But it's not a slaughterhouse. It's a upper-middle-class supermarket, brightly but not harshly lit, stocked with sushi, expensive cheeses, organic vegetables, olive oils, and honeys. It's not food for thought. It's an empty stomach. It's heartbreaking. It's utopia.” —Micaela Morrissette, Bomb

“The prose, which never fails to be consistent and accessible, continued to impress page after page . . . Perhaps the highest achievement of [Submission] is the way it manages to be a satire with a core of deep humanism running through it.” —Popmatters

“Extraordinary . . . if there is anyone in literature today, not just in French but worldwide, who is thinking about the sort of enormous shifts we all feel are happening, it’s [Houellebecq].” —Emmanuel Carrere, Le Monde

“A work of real literary distinction . . . [Houellebecq] has been the novelist who has most fearlessly and presciently tackled the rise of Islamic extremism in recent years . . . He is a writer with a gift for telling the truth, unlike any other in our time – I’ve been consistently saying he is the writer who matters most to me for many years now. I’ve read Submission twice in the last week with ever growing admiration and enjoyment. There’s been no English-language novel this good lately. With Submission Houellebecq has inserted himself right into the centre of the intellectual debate that was already raging in France about Islam and identity politics . . . There is nobody else writing now more worth reading.” —David Sexton, Evening Standard

“Houellebecq has an unerring, Balzacian flair for detail, and his novels provide an acute, disenchanted anatomy of French middle-class life . . . Houellebecq writes about Islam with curiosity, fascination, even a hint of envy.” —Adam Shatz, London Review of Books

“[Submission's] moral complexity, concerned above all with how politics shape-or annihilate-personal ethics, is singular and brilliant . . . 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.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Publishers Weekly
★ 07/20/2015
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.)
Library Journal
09/01/2015
This latest novel from the controversial, Prix Goncourt-winning author Houellebecq (The Map and the Territory) may present as futurist/fantasy, but it's not. It begins as academic satire, with narrator François, a melancholy middle-aged Huysmans scholar, but soon turns political. In 2022, at the time of national elections, France is a volatile state; the first vote-down is canceled because of assaults on polling places, and the following week the Muslim Brotherhood is swept into power. Soon, women disappear from prominence and begin wearing veils, and polygamy—generally with "selected" wives—becomes common. Moreover, the charismatic Muslim leader Ben Abbes makes rapid progress in forging "Europe" into a Muslim entity embracing Scandinavia, the Baltics, northern Africa, etc. (the United States is barely mentioned here). François? He can have a prestigious Sorbonne appointment, but he must convert. Will he? (Hmm, prestigious position, multiple nubile wives….) This is a novel of ideas, offset by ironic humor and generally unsuccessful sex scenes. Readers will not need to be conversant with French literature and metaphysics, the philosophy/religion axis, but it's hard to see one not thus equipped getting through the narrative. VERDICT Compelling—challenging even—for readers looking for a clever book with a philosophical bent and antithetical to, or perhaps an antidote to, beach reading. [See Prepub Alert, 4/20/15.]—Robert E. Brown, Oswego, NY

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781250097347
Publisher:
Picador
Publication date:
10/25/2016
Edition description:
Translatio
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
95,749
Product dimensions:
5.53(w) x 8.24(h) x 0.72(d)

Meet the Author

Michel Houellebecq is a French novelist, poet, and literary critic. His novels include the international bestsellerThe Elementary Particles and The Map and the Territory, which won the 2010 Prix Goncourt. He lives in France.

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Submission 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TheLoon More than 1 year ago
An important book that drills an important message into our skulls. We are not going to like what is coming.