Michel Houellebecq’s novel Soumission made its entry into the world under conditions that can confidently be declared unprecedented. Soumission did not simply come out on 7 January, the day when jihadists attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo; it was both pebble and ripple on a fathomless day. Breakfast had seen the critics taking chunks out of this preposterous fantasy in which France comes under Islamic rule eight years from now. “Irresponsible,” pronounced Pierre Assouline, a Goncourt jurist; the commentator Patrick Cohen accused Houellebecq of peddling fears and phantasms. To no one’s surprise a caricature of the author was on the cover of the new edition of Charlie Hebdo (“in 2015 I lose my teeth. In 2022, I will do Ramadan”), while Houellebecq himself, bored, saturnine, dentally lamentable, did the rounds of the morning radio and TV shows. After the attacks at 11.30am things got a lot darker and weirder. A faked “extract” from Soumission, purporting to show that it had predicted the attacks, went viral, Houellebecq cancelled further publicity and left town, and, over the next few days, as republican France roared back at the Islamists, Soumission leaped to the top of the bestseller lists – where it remains (it… Read full this story
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