Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Book review: Soumission

I've finished reading the controversial book of the moment, "Soumission" by Michel Houellebecq.

There has been so much said and written about it that the element of surprise has been completely irrelevant, but I read it out of interest because, since its publication, the media has been having a caca nerveux and throwing its toys out of the pram. The book satirises French society including politics and politicians, but gives special attention to l'Education National.

I have not read a Houellebecq book before, but, according to reviewers, the protagonist, François, is one of his typical cowardly, frustrated and miserable characters.

François is a university professor of letters who spends as little time as possible teaching but uses it to meet and shag a new student every year. He ages, his conquests don't. His only worry is whether, with advancing age, he'll still be able to 'pull'. We hear about his sexual exploits, and realise that they form his major interest in life, empty and superficial though they may be.

While François is examining his navel (and other body parts) and ruminating on the nineteenth century author Joris-Karl Huysmans known for his idiosyncratic use of French which Houellebecq seems to have been determined to exceed (although that may just be me and my less than perfect mastery of the language), Mohammad Ben Abbès becomes president of France. One of those "front républican" manipulations that the UMPS put on to block the Front National getting elected results in a series of arrangements that brings the Muslim party to power after two disastrous terms as president by François Hollande. We're talking 2022, in the not too distant future.

The new president is a highly sophisticated political animal. He knows that he would not be able to maintain power if he tried to go for a totalitarian state under Sharia law. Instead, he agrees to share a certain amount of power but insists on Islamic education throughout l'Education National. Most girls will be educated to primary level and then sent to institutes to teach them how to be good wives and mothers. When you have access to education, you control the future... The other non-negotiable point is the legalisation of polygamy. Polygamy is, however, only for the elite, for the benefit of natural selection...

After coming to power, Ben Abbès declares it illegal for women to work so they are sent home to live on generous benefits (financed by the Gulf). Unemployment immediately falls as men take up those positions liberated by women.

As a non-Muslim, François is retired on a healthy pension despite his age (45), and thus loses his access to students. Suddenly frustrated, he frequents certain websites, and is led by his willy to pay for even more empty and superficial sexual exploits.

Houllebecqu analyses, through him and his colleagues, the state of France and the French. Western civilisation is described as decadent and ageing, and in the process of committing suicide. There is a particularly spicy description of "islamogauchisme" that gave me a good laugh.
"Mais c'est surtout à ses confrères islamogauchistes qu'il réservait ses sarcasmes: l'islamogauchisme, écrivait-il, était une tentative désespérée de marxistes décomposés, pourrissants, en état de mort clinique, pour se hisser hors des poubelles de l'histoire en s'accrochant aux forces montantes de l'islam."
(But he reserved his sarcasm for his islamo-lefty colleagues: islamo-leftism, he wrote, was a desperate attempt of rotting, decomposed Marxists in a state of clinical death to haul themselves out of the rubbish bins of history by hanging on to the rising forces of Islam.)

They discuss the role of women, politicians (François Bayrou, the new prime minister, is described in scathing terms), families and the new policy of encouraging families to set up businesses instead of living off the state. From a top down society, it becomes, under Ben Abbès, active from the bottom up.

The most nauseous section is when François visits the house of a superior from his old university and bumps into a young girl of fifteen wearing a Hello Kitty tee shirt. She is unveiled so screams and runs off, and he is told she is one of wives of the crusty old colleague who is 60. Yuk. The status of women is reduced to either: mature housekeeper/cook, or pretty young "service station", the sex toy to be as young as possible. It's legal paedophilia.

There's another scene on a train when he's sitting near a rich Saudi type who has two young girls opposite him, obviously his wives. François starts comparing the lives of these Muslim Arab woman, with western women. Western women dress up to go to work. They do their job all day, and come home exhausted, then change out of their sexy smart clothes into comfy togs. Muslim women, on the other hand, are indistinguishable one from the other outside under their veils, but once home, change into sexy undies to serve as beautiful playthings to their lord and master. They are brought up to submit to his needs; their own, presumably, of no interest to anyone. 

Houllebecq is known to be a misogynist, probably because he has little, physically, to please the chicks...
see what I mean?
François contemplates a life as one of the favoured few with an important position at the university, and three pretty wives to wait on him hand and foot. Obviously, he's not interested in them as individuals but as providers of food and sex. His willy wins out, he submits to Islam, and the faint hope that he could learn to love... 

This is not an anti-Islamic book at all. In fact, I think that the author sees many advantages for the male sex in submitting to Mohammed. Rather than get all het up about the portrayal of France under Islam, the media would do better to examine some of the societal and political issues raised. It makes one think that the controversy around this book is nothing more than commercial manipulation. I believe it's selling like hot cakes...

Were such a situation to occur in France, it would set women's rights back a hundred years. With politicians and the justice system so craven towards Muslims these days, I am not confident that this will not happen.

It would just take a clever guy and some political manipulation backed by a lot of money. Can't you just see it?


  1. I bought the book two weeks ago and I'm waiting my turn to read it (Bigfoot's first on the list). I like your analysis - I read a review in Time magazine that also wondered what all the fuss was about because there was nothing "anti-Islam" anywhere in the book, but rather a lot of societal questions to be answered. I find it funny that by attacking Huellebecq for his book and trying to muzzle the poor guy (just weeks before hitting the tarmac to scream for the right to free speech) the gauche bobo actually drummed up considerable interest in his book. Could well be counterproductive to try to shut up authors...

    1. Erratum. Not Time magazine, it was The New Statesman.

    2. I must admit, I found myself ploughing my way through most of it. Apparently, it's not his best effort. Amazon reviews are so useful. :)

      The right to free speech is only for some, and only if they say the right things... Anyway, we all know that when there is a hoo-ha about a book, it immediately attracts a whole lot of attention and sales rocket!


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