Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Houllebecq and the diagnosis of our malaise …

… The Tattered Contract: A Kirkian Look at Michel Houellebecq - Intercollegiate Studies Institute: Think. Live Free. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Intriguingly, in his study Without God: Michel Houellebecq and Materialist Horror (2016), Louis Betty demonstrates that despite initial perceptions, Houellebecq “is a deeply and unavoidably religious writer” who lays much of the blame for modern malaise at the foot of humankind’s oldest enemy: idolatry in the form of materialism and its discontents. The novelist perceives the unfettered free market as a forum that provides much good, much comfort, and much luxury at a cost: a devil’s bargain that produces a desire to acquire ever more of the same, which diminishes man’s capacity for fellowship and community while destroying his sense of the sacred. It’s as J. R. R. Tolkien once wrote to his eldest son: “Commercialism is a swine at heart.” The preoccupation with mere getting and spending is both a symptom of cultural decay and a destroyer of imagination. Tolkien foresaw what Houellebecq depicts: the end of Christendom—Christian Europe—amid a self-induced postwar fever of hedonism, aimlessness, and nihilism. “More and more now, I have doubts about the sort of world we’re creating,” confides one of Houellebecq’s characters, in Platform.
The Meaning of Houellebecq. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

 The character who engages in a sociological soliloquy is perhaps Houellebecq’s key narrative innovation, and it is as essential to his art, as, say the wild vista was to Wordworth’s. But how different it is from the interior conversations conducted in Shakespeare or in the masterworks of the nineteenth century. Let the following passage serve as a representative sample of Houellecbq’s sociological soliloquy. François, the Parisian protagonist and narrator of Submission, tries to make sense of his pain as a series of girlfriends leave him:
The way things were supposed to work (and I have no reason to think much has changed), young people, after a brief period of sexual vagabondage in their very early teens, were expected to settle down in exclusive, strictly monogamous relationships involving activities (outings, weekends, holidays) that were not only sexual, but social. At the same time, there was nothing final about these relationships. Instead they were thought of as apprenticeships—in a sense, as internships

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