Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr

France

Houellebecq and the capitulation of cover art

Thursday, 5 March, 2015 0 Comments

“For the purpose of Appreciation and Categorization” is the motto of The Book Cover Archive, and there is much to appreciate and categorize on this World Book Day when it comes to book covers. Think of the art of Roger Kastel for Jaws by Peter Benchley. With Soumission, the latest novel from Michel Houellebecq, however, we’re seeing a different kind of cover art. The art of capitulation.

In his book, Houellebecq paints a picture of an old, ailing Christian nation, France, submitting to a more vigorous ideology: Islam. It is a bitterly funny critique of the tolerance of the intolerant and a terrifying vision of the multicultural endgame. The book is a best-seller in France, Germany and Italy, despite the best efforts of its publishers to neutralize its appearance. The two-tone cover of the original French version is devoid of art; the German version, Unterwerfung, features the head of a bird, and the Italian cover of Sottomissione dispenses with imagery completely. The US publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, is silent about the cover of Lorin Stein’s forthcoming translation but one fears that the supine trend will continue. Given the vital role of cover art in the history of book making, it is hard to accept that publishers would willingly embrace aniconism, the proscription against the creation of images, but Sottomissione is the proof.

Soumission Soumission Soumission

Michel Houellebecq reads in Cologne

Monday, 19 January, 2015 0 Comments

Topping the bestseller list at Amazon.fr is Soumission by Michel Houellebecq. Is his vision of a supine French “submission” to a gradual Islamic takeover a farce or a warning? Tonight, in Cologne, people will have a chance to make up their own minds when the controversial author makes one of his rare trips abroad to speak about his work. Unsurprisingly, the Lit Cologne event is sold out.

Soumission is set seven years in the future, in the year 2022. Mohammed Ben Abbes becomes president of France and immediately all women must be veiled in public, state secondary schools adopt an Islamic curriculum, and the protagonist, François, is told that he cannot return to his university job unless he converts to Islam. He happily submits to the new order, not for any religious or philosophical reasons, but because the new Saudi owners of the Sorbonne pay far better — and he can be polygamous. As he notes, in envy of his new boss, who has converted already: “One 40-year-old wife for cooking, one 15-year-old wife for other things… no doubt he had one or two others of intermediate ages.”

For those who are not fortunate enough to have a ticket to see Michel Houellebecq in action tonight, this Paris Review Q&A, “Scare Tactics: Michel Houellebecq Defends His Controversial New Book,” is essential reading. Snippet:

Have you asked yourself what the effect might be of a novel based on such a hypothesis?

None. No effect whatsoever.

You don’t think it will help reinforce the image of France that I just described, in which Islam hangs overhead like the sword of Damocles, like the most frightening thing of all?

In any case, that’s pretty much all the media talks about, they couldn’t talk about it more. It would be impossible to talk about it more than they already do, so my book won’t have any effect.

Doesn’t it make you want to write about something else so as not to join the pack?

No, part of my work is to talk about what everyone is talking about, objectively. I belong to my own time.

Soumission by Michel Houellebecq


A lament for Paris

Saturday, 10 January, 2015 0 Comments

Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten by the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt begins with a lone tolling bell. Strings slowly emerge, as if from a fog, and begin to well up in waves of sorrow that seem to carry on forever. As we meditate on the victims of the evil ideology that brought death and suffering to Paris this week, let us take what comfort we can from this simple but powerful expression of grief.


La barbarie menace notre civilisation

Thursday, 8 January, 2015 0 Comments

“I am not afraid of retaliation. I have no kids, no wife, no car, no credit. It perhaps sounds a bit pompous, but I prefer to die standing than living on my knees.” — Stephane Charbonnier, publishing director of Charlie Hebdo, murdered alongside 12 others in an Islamist attack in Paris yesterday.

Stephane Charbonnier

Je suis Charlie


L’immobilisme is destabilizing France

Thursday, 6 November, 2014 0 Comments

“As the Hollande presidency stumbles past its half-way point, it is hard to overstate the depths of pessimism in the country.” So writes the BBC’s Hugh Schofield in a grim piece titled “French ‘mess’ threatens real civil strife.” The cause of the latest bout of l’immobilisme is “a melange of incompetence, powerlessness, timidity and indecision to which the country’s government has fallen prey.”

The hapless Hollande brings out the Churchillian in Schofield’s prose: “The president makes a boast of being ‘normal’, when the times require exception. He invites ridicule, when France needs someone of stature. He vacillates, when France looks for steel.” Tonight, in an “interview exceptionnelle” at prime time on TF1, Hollande will face the nation, but Atlantico is convinced that nothing will change — until everything changes.


Follow the bouncing ball

Saturday, 7 June, 2014 0 Comments

The World Cup kicks off next week so now’s the time to get into the mood. We’re getting an assist today from Guillaume Blanchet, a French filmmaker based in Montreal.


Benedict Cumberbatch reads the news from D-Day

Friday, 6 June, 2014 0 Comments

Seventy years ago today, 160,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy. D-Day was one of the most superbly planned and conducted invasions in military history and Europe owes a huge debt to the unique generation of British, Canadians and Americans who gave so much for the freedom that we enjoy today. Listen now to Benedict Cumberbatch reading the 8am BBC news from D-Day.


Revolution and Revolt in France

Tuesday, 11 February, 2014 0 Comments

Revolution: Yesterday, the French business daily, Les Echos, launched a news aggregator called Les Echos 360. To be precise, it’s not an aggregator, it’s an “aggrefilter” says Frederic Filloux, the head of digital at Les Echos, who explains that the word means an aggregation and filtering system that collects technology news and ranks it based on its importance to the news cycle. As Filloux points out in his Monday Note blog post, this move required courage and a lot of clever thinking:

“For Les Echos‘ digital division, this aggrefilter is a proof of concept, a way to learn a set of technologies we consider essential for the company’s future. The digital news business will be increasingly driven by semantic processes; these will allow publishers to extract much more value from news items, whether they are produced in-house or aggregated/filtered. That is especially true for a business news provider: the more specialized the corpus, the higher the need for advanced processing.”

Liberation

Revolt: Journalists at France’s third-biggest national newspaper, Libération, have responded with rage at a plan by the owners to try to save the declining daily by transforming it into a “social network”. The owners also want to convert the central Paris building rented by the newsroom into a cultural centre with a café, TV studio and business area for start-ups. Liberation staff voiced their opposition on the cover of the weekend edition: “We are a newspaper, not a restaurant, not a social network, not a cultural space, not a TV studio, not a bar, not a start-up incubator.”

Started by Jean-Paul Sartre in 1973, Libération is a leftist fixture on Parisian newsstands, but it has long trailed Le Monde and Le Figaro, and, with a circulation of just 100,000, it has proved to be a bottomless pit for its shareholders. Last year, it lost more than €500,000 as sales sank 15 percent. Marx would be delighted with such energetic destruction of capital.

Prediction: Les Echos will survive. Libération will not.


The mistress ménage of M. Hollande

Tuesday, 14 January, 2014 0 Comments

The observation that “when one marries one’s mistress one creates a vacancy” is attributed to Sir James Goldsmith. Someone should have passed the quip along to the French First Lady Valérie Trierweiler. She’s still in hospital suffering from depression and shock, three days after Closer magazine revealed that her “boyfriend”, President François Hollande, was having a love affair with a 41-year-old actress, Julie Gayet.

Although Médiapart, the left-leaning online investigative journal created by the former editor-in-chief of Le Monde Edwy Plene, has revealed that the Hollande-Gayet “love nest” was linked to the Mafia, Renaud Revel, who writes a media blog for L’Express, sharply criticizes the embarrassed silence of France’s mainstream media about the affair. “We’re in the middle of a tabloid drama and the media has taken a vow of silence,” he says. “In a mature democracy it would be a given that they would have done their homework, like Médiapart is now doing. What kind of country is it where most media hide behind the sublime argument of respect for a person’s private life?”

Sir James Goldsmith, by the way, had three wives, innumerable mistresses and eight children, two born in the late 1980s to the last love of his life, the well-connected French journalist Laure de Boulay de la Meurthe, a reporter for Paris Match magazine and a member of the Bourbon family. Coincidentally, Valérie Trierweiler is a journalist and she’s under contract with Paris Match. She’s a socialist/socialite, however, not a Bourbon.

140114match


Baa, Baa, Black Sheep

Sunday, 12 January, 2014 0 Comments

Mother Goose is often cited as the author of hundreds of children’s rhymes that have been passed down through oral and written tradition over the generations. French texts that refer to stories by Mother Goose date back as early as the 17th century and contain the terms mere l’oye or mere oye (Mother Goose). Charles […]

Continue Reading »

The disgusting quenelle of the repulsive Nicolas Anelka

Monday, 30 December, 2013 0 Comments

Anti-Semitism is a hallmark of savagery, and one cannot expect anything from savages except further savagery. That’s the context in which the quenelle gesture used by West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka during Saturday’s Premiership match with West Ham United has to be viewed. Anelka is a friend of the racist comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala whose provocative downward version of the Nazi salute has won him a huge following in France.

“Anti-Semitism is the sign of profound mental and social failure — and a harbinger of more failures and errors to come,” notes Walter Russell Mead in The American Interest. The essay is titled “Jon Stewart, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and the Zionist Takeover of Egypt.” Snippet:

“Rabid anti-Semitism coupled with an addiction to implausible conspiracy theories is a very strong predictor of national doom; Nazi Germany isn’t the only country to have followed these dark stars to the graveyard of history. Many liberal minded Americans (though loathing both anti-Semitism and chowderheaded conspiracy thinking themselves) don’t like to look this truth in the eye. It leads to some very uncomfortable reflections about the potential for democracy in many countries beyond Egypt, and casts a dark shadow over the prospects for the development of a stable and prosperous Palestinian state. It suggests that there are narrow limits on what we can expect from diplomacy with Iran.”

There is no place in football for the poison that Anelka is spreading. Boot him out!