Michel Houellebecq, the well-known French author who never fails to cause controversy in his books, has now set France aflame with his erotic novel Soumission about a world where Muslim fundamentalists rule France.
The book has shot to the top of the country’s best-seller lists with a first week’s sales of more than 100,000 copies.
Published on 7th January, the story takes place in 2022 at which time France is living in fear. The country is roiled by mysterious troubles. Regular episodes of urban violence are deliberately obscured by the media. Everything is covered up, the public is in the dark and in a few months the leader of a newly created Muslim party will be elected President. On the evening of 5th June, in a second general election – the first having been annulled after widespread voter fraud – Mohammed Ben Abbes beats Marine Le Pen with support from both the Socialists and the Right.
The next day women abandon Western dress. Most begin wearing long cotton smocks over their trousers and, encouraged by government subsidies, they leave the workplace in droves. Male unemployment drops overnight. In former rough neighbourhoods, crime all but disappears. Universities become Islamic. Non-Muslim teachers are forced into early retirement unless they convert and submit to the new regime.
This is the world imagined by Houellebecq in his sixth novel, which created a scandal in France even before its publication – let alone the aftermath that followed the Charlie Hebdo attack which rocked the very foundation of Frances’s political and cultural institutions.
But is France’s most celebrated, best-selling author offering a splenetic vision of the Muslim threat to Europe or a spineless submission to gradual Islamic takeover, as the Guardian newspaper ponders?
Houellebecq, whose book which talked of sex, mother hatred and Cloning – Atomised – was the French literary scandal of the 1990s, has now turned his attention to Islamisation that has in certain quarters provoked a flurry of accusations that he is pandering to the growing Islamophobia that is gripping France.
But Soumission is not primarily about politics at all, according to the Guardian. The real target of Houellebecq’s satire – as in his previous novels – is the predictable manipulation and the venality and lustfulness of modern metropolitan man, intellectual or otherwise.
The book, just published in Germany, is flying off the shelves there, with an initial print run of 100,000 copies already sold out.
The world is certainly in a great state of turmoil where cultures and religions are playing an integral role in a division which does not augur well, particularly in Europe.
The author, although a controversialist by nature, has a point worth delving into. The way things are going nothing, however remote, or unimaginable, is beyond the realm of possibility.