Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Submission by Michel Houellebecq

Continuing on the theme of French culture I read Submission. Another title I'd heard of here and there and had been meaning to read. After a short wait it appeared at the library. It was pretty cool of the library with Camp of the Saints. They didn't have it but special borrowed it from a university. I hadn't even asked them to to that. +1 for Halifax regional library.

Anyway Submission is modern, published in 2015. So there's Internet and all that. And lots of French culture. Delicious food, fine wine, beautiful architecture. The author Houellebecq describes the classic French culture in an inviting way. It made me want to go to France and take in the culture firsthand. oh well, perhaps someday anything is possible.

The protagonist is a mid 40s tenured literature professor in Paris. His specialty is Huysmans, a 19th century French literary figure I personally have never read and know nothing about. The professor is tellingly unmarried and childless. He has something of a love interest, Miriam, a graduate student about 20 years his junior. Miriam is Jewish and decides to leave France for Israel in the face of a rising Muslim Brotherhood. In the book Miriam professes her love for the professor, but what she loves is in her words France. The professor is, France. The literature, the cheese, the meats, the wine and brandy, the secular humanism.

The author goes on a spiritual journey of his own, learning about Islam and exploring his own post Christian identity, spending time at a monastery. I did find a really interesting passage in the book defending polygamy that made me think. The argument is science-based, natural selection. The most successful males would naturally attract more female mates who would want to settle with him, even if he has one or more wives already. If this leaves the less successful males unattached and without children then that's the market, natural selection, which is consistent with nature. It was certainly a thought provoking argument. I'd never thought of polygamy that way I must say.

It was a good book. I recommend it. I think there are more themes in this book the author is getting at that I likely missed. So that makes it interesting as well. It would be cool to discuss the book with other readers.

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