A French Novelist and Holy Envy
A French Novelist and Holy Envy
| Jan 13, 2022 | 0 Comments |

Since he has a new book out, I've been thinking (again) about the French novelist Michel Houellebecq's legacy. The fact that it's called Anéantir, which means to "destroy oneself" but also to "disappear" seems appropriate. I re-read Micah Meadowcroft's fascinating and sprawling review of Houellebecq's career and what his insights tell us about the spiritual malaise afflicting Europe. One of Houellebecq's preoccupations is Islam, which has often led him to be accused of anti-Muslim bigotry. (The other one is sex, and the two are related).

As one of the relatively few Muslims who also happens to be a fan of Houellebecq's writing, I have a different view. I think he has been misunderstood. His main target of attack isn't Islam; Islam is used as the "other" through which to understand the follies and failures of the host civilization. Christianity is listless and irrelevant, a relic of a not-so-far-away past as well as a reminder of what America might still become. In this reading, Islam is to be feared because it has something that Christianity does not have—or that it lost.