Michel Houellebecq, the Cassandra of Freedom

Submission and Decline


On 7 January 2015, the day of the murderous attack on the offices of the Paris satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, the cover of the current issue showed a drunken Michel Houellebecq in a wizard’s cap making two prophecies: “In 2016 I will lose my teeth. In 2022 I will observe Ramadan.” Houellebecq had previously described Islam as “the stupidest of religions.” But on that day, as terrorists sought to bring the justice of Islam to blasphemers for whom Michel Houellebecq was insufficiently anti-Islamic, Houellebecq’s novel Submission, depicting the democratic conquest of France by the Muslim Brotherhood, was published by Flammarion. In this collection, an international cast of authorities on politics and literature discuss the meaning and unprecedented impact of Michel Houellebecq’s Submission.

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Michael S. Kochin, PhD University of Chicago, 1996. Teaches politics, literature and film at Tel Aviv University. His most recent book (with the historian Michael Taylor): An Independent Empire: Diplomacy & War in the Making of the United States (2020).

Alberto Spektorowski, PhD Hebrew University Jerusalem, 1996. Teaches comparative politics at Tel Aviv University. His most recent book (with Dafna Elfersy): From multiculturalism to democratic discrimination: The Challenge of Islam and the re-emergence of Europe’s nationalism (Michigan, 2020).
Sous la direction de/series editors: Keith Busby, Sjef Houppermans, Paul Pelckmans. Alexander Roose et/and Emma Cayley.
“Several [chapters] are truly exceptional and help the reader view both the novel in question and the world it portrays in new ways. Nearly all get to grips with the fact that ‘no other work of fiction published in the last fifty years has had the impact of Houellebecq’s Submission. While critics are divided about the literary value of the book, nobody doubts its effects at the political or ideological level.’”
- Henry George, in: Voegel in View, March 2022

"[This book] features ten essays on this most notorious novel, all of which are written with the sound of gunfire echoing in the background. This slim novel 'reflected current and dramatic political developments in real time and, at the same, explored the philosophical, ideological, and psychological meaning of these events and wove them into the fabric of European art and literature'. [..] The tragic and violent backdrop against which these essays are presented is a stark contrast with the academic tone of the essays and their arguments. This is both necessary to gain some perspective on a complex novel, and to gain some detachment from real-world events. The detached tone in this book matches that of Francois, the narrator in Submission. This does not detract from the substance and force of many of the arguments, however: impact is not always felt from polemic." - Henry George, in: VoegelinView.com, March 2022
Notes on Contributors


1 Submission and Decline: Houellebecq as Cassandra and Jester
Claudia Franziska Brühwiler

2 Michel Houellebecq and the “Political Triangle”: The Republic, the Radical Right, and the “Ultimate Other”
Alberto Spektorowski

3 The Mother of Invention: Theo van Gogh in Houellebecq’s Rearview Mirror
Sam Cherribi

4 Submission and the Possibility of Low-Intensity Totalitarianism in France
Yvon Grenier

5 Western Decline and the Overcoming of the Metaphysical Stage in Houellebecq’s Fiction
Guillermo Graíño Ferrer

6 Michel Houellebecq’s Comparative Political Science of Religion
Neil Rogachevsky

7 Submission to Peace, and Polygamy: Should the French Acquiesce to Houellebecq’s Dream of a New Islam?
Alexander Orwin

8 The Pleasures of Decay in Houellebecq’s Submission
Michael S. Kochin

9 Dissociation, Disavowal, and Despair in Houellebecq’s Submission
Henry F. Smith

10 Polygamy and the Political Problem of Eros in Houellebecq’s Submission
John von Heyking

Directed especially to students and specialists in the area of comparative literature and comparative politics, focusing on the challenge of Islam to Western cultures and states.
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